The Supreme Court on Thursday asked the CBI to probe what it said was “criminality” and “collusion” between business leaders and bureaucrats as brought out by tapped conversations of former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
The court ordered the investigation after going through a CBI report on the transcripts of 5,800 conversations involving Radia, senior bureaucrats, journalists and industrialists. The bench turned down the agency’s plea to let local police probe some cases.
The order means that the scope of the probe will now go beyond the 2G spectrum scandal which the tapped conversations are believed to have alluded to.
“There is a deep-rooted malice by private enterprises in connivance with the government officials and Niira Radia’s conversations suggest that influential persons indulged in corrupt practices for private gains and for extraneous purpose,” a bench headed by justice GS Singhvi said.
The court, which will monitor the probe, also directed its special team of income-tax and CBI officials to scrutinise the remaining transcripts, and allowed the team 10 more I-T sub-inspectors.
The I-T department tapped Radia’s phone during 2008-09 after it found that within nine years she had built a business empire worth `300 crore. The conversations were recorded when Radia headed Mumbai-based Vaishnavi Corporate Communications.
Submitted in a sealed cover, the CBI report cited 14 instances of alleged “criminality” and “collusion between corporate executives and bureaucrats.” The agency, on the directions of the court, had analysed the transcripts to ascertain if an element of criminality was there in the tapes.
Observing that the examination of the conversations suggested collusion between government officials and private business, the court gave the CBI two months to complete the probe and fixed December 16 for next hearing.
Justice Singhvi, who heads the bench, will, however, retire on December 12. The matter would therefore, be heard by a new bench.
Selective leaks and publications of excerpts of the tapped conversations in 2010 forced former chairman of Tata Group Ratan Tata to move the court to protect his privacy. In his petition, Tata sought action against government officials responsible for the leaks.
However, during the hearing, the court directed the I-T department to place all the conversations before it and later constituted a team to transcribe and analyse the contents.
The special team submitted a report on July 31, 2013 after which the court directed the CBI to probe the criminality part.