New Delhi: CBI today told the Supreme Court that it can register cases on its directions on certain issues as the records and the analysis of tapped conversations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia with top corporate honchos, politicians and others, suggest criminality.
Senior advocate K K Venugopal, who was reading out the excerpts of ten items emanating from the report of the apex court-appointed six member team, said there is “prima facie” suspicion in some of the aspects requiring registration of preliminary inquires by the CBI.
“If you direct CBI to investigate then we have to
register preliminary inquiry,” Venugopal, appearing for the agency, said.
He agreed with the suggestions of a bench headed by Justice G S Singhvi that since the case was being monitored by the apex court, CBI can be asked to investigate the serious issues arising in the matter and nothing should be left to the state police.
The bench also asked the Centre to apprise it as to whether the officials, listening to the conversations of Radia with top corporate honchos and others, informed their seniors about the “serious issues” emanating from the tapped telephonic records.
“The question is whether the serious issues which came to light was brought to the notice of senior officials or not. The next question is as to what action was taken?,” the bench said.
The court also expressed surprise over inaction of Income Tax department officials and others on alleged incriminating contents of the tapped conversations.
“What has surprised us that these conversations were available to the senior officials,” it said, adding that the “the delay has made the matter almost infructuous.”
“Had it been shared with the higher authorities the consequences could have been different as these are serious matters,” the bench said.
During the hearing, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P P Malhotra, appearing for the Centre, told the bench that sanction was taken by from the Home Secretary to record the conversations of Radia under the Indian Telegraphic Act.
“On authorisation and sanction part, there is no problem. You (ASG) tell us as to whether the nodal officer (authorised to hear the conversations) shared the information with the Home Secretary or not?,” the bench, also comprising Justice V Gopala Gowda, said.
“It appears you (ASG) did not get enough time to go through the records,” it said after Malhotra could not give satisfactory answers to the queries posed by the bench on the issue. It then deferred the hearing of the case tomorrow.
Prashant Bhushan, appearing for NGO Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said except the conversations, which are of personal nature, other records be made public.
“We do not have the access (to the transcripts) and hence we will not be able to properly assist,” Bhushan said, adding that if the conversations reveal “investigation-worthy” information then the probe can be ordered.
“We will consider it,” the bench said.
Earlier, the court had pulled the Income Tax department and others for not taking action in the last five years on information gathered from tapped phone conversations of Radia.
The conversations were recorded as part of surveillance of Radia’s phone on a complaint to the Finance Minister on November 16, 2007 alleging that within a span of nine years she had built up a business empire worth Rs 300 crore.
The government had recorded 180 days of Radia’s conversations–first from August 20, 2008 on wards for 60 days and then from October 19 for another 60 days. Later, on May 11, 2009, her phone was again put on surveillance for another 60 days following a fresh order given on May 8.
Later, the apex court ordered setting up of team of investigators to examine the contents of the conversations.
The apex court has perused the report and transcripts prepared by the special team of investigators and had said “some of the items highlighted will become the subject matter of investigation”.