New Delhi: In a punishment reminiscent of a classroom rebuke, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ordered former acting CBI chief M Nageswara Rao and agency’s legal advisor S Bhasuram to sit in a corner of the courtroom till the rising of the court, after holding them guilty of contempt. “You go and sit in one corner of the court till we rise,” Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi told Rao and his legal colleague. The apex court also imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on each of them.
The court had barred the interim chief from carrying out any transfers. Yet, he had transferred the senior most officer investigating the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse case. The Bench, therefore, held them guilty for wilfully disobeying its order. The Bench rejected Rao’s defence that it was not an instance of wilful disobedience on his part but an error of judgement.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the CBI director in the case, also requested the bench to accept the unconditional apology tendered by Rao and Bhasuran and let them off with a stern warning. Venugopal also tried to persuade the Bench that it was the junior lawyers in the central law agency who were perhaps responsible for not informing the court about the transfer of the investigating officer in Bihar shelter home case.
Before passing the order, the Bench told Rao and Bhasuram that it was not accepting the unconditional and unqualified apology tendered by them. It also gave Rao and Bhasuram the option to say something as the sentence for them could be 30 days in jail.
“Do you have to say something” the bench asked them. At this point, Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, requested the court to look at other options and sought leniency for them. “To err is human, to forgive is divine,” Venugopal said.
During the hearing, the bench observed that Rao was aware of the apex court direction that the CBI officer probing the shelter home sexual assault cases cannot be transferred without its consent. However, his “attitude is ‘I have done what I thought was required’,” the Bench said.
“This is a blatant contempt of court. If this is not contempt of court, then what is,” asked the Bench. The court had on February 7 come down heavily on the CBI for transferring Sharma out of the agency in violation of the court’s order. It had also taken note of the violation of two earlier orders and issued contempt notice to Rao.