The Supreme Court order directing CBI director Ranjit Sinha to recuse himself from the investigations into the 2G scam is, on the face of it, a severe indictment of India’s top investigator and agency but it is still not a pronouncement of guilt. But nonetheless, this order may make it difficult for him to carry on as CBI chief.
There have been allegations, but no conclusive evidence, that Sinha met representatives of some of the accused in his house and tried to interfere with the progress of the investigation. In the absence of a more detailed order, we have to point out that the apex court has simply kept him out of the investigations.
The system of dispensing judgment — including the process of investigating crimes — must not only be above board and fair, but it must also be seen to be so. Keeping Sinha on the 2G case would have meant failing the test on the second touchstone.
Since the 2G scam surfaced four years ago, there have been numerous allegations of political and bureaucratic interference in the investigations. To avoid this, the court has been monitoring the investigations since 2010. The court has done it in the other cases, lending gravitas to the probes. The Supreme Court remains one of the few institutions in the country that people across the country still trust.
The CBI, on the other hand, is among those with the most tarnished reputations. There is a very real danger that any conclusion the CBI reaches — guilty, not guilty or inconclusive — will get mired in a slanging match among political rivals. By recusing Sinha from the 2G probe, the court is ensuring that any such possibility is nipped in the bud.
The apex court has ordered the senior-most officer in the 2G scam investigating team to take over the role of the CBI director in the case. This will ensure that people will continue to trust in the integrity of the probe into the scam, which the Comptroller and Auditor General has said, caused a loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore to the public exchequer.
It will also insulate the probe against allegations of political or corporate interference and bring credibility to the final denouement. The 2G scam case is one of the most high-profile scams to have come to light.
It has dragged on for too long. Hopefully, this latest step by the Supreme Court will serve as a wake-up call to India’s premier investigating agency and lead to a regime that encourages officers to carry out their duties without fear or favour. And hopefully, it will lead to a quick closure of this case.