Having been caught hobnobbing with a political executive over a sensitive probe into the coal scam, CBI director Ranjit Sinha now appears to be downplaying the act.
While admitting that the agency incorporated changes in its status report at the behest of law minister, attorney general and two senior bureaucrats, Sinha's affidavit filed on Monday claimed that no suspect or accused was let off in the process.
"…sharing of the status reports with the persons and the consequent changes have neither altered the central theme or the report, nor shifted the focus of enquiries or investigations in any manner," stated the director's affidavit, filed in response to the Supreme Court April 30 direction.
Alterations were made in two status reports post March 6 and 7 meetings. Though Sinha could not attribute all changes to individuals, he could recollect incorporation of three suggestions made by the law minister in one status report and a change made at the behest of the PMO and ministry of coal officials in the other.
He defended his officers' decision to have made the changes on the ground they were on tentative findings, which the agency felt would be clearer on further inquiry. The two joint secretaries, each from PMO and coal ministry, asked for a change that was factually correct, Sinha said.
Senior Supreme Court advocate Dushyant Dave slammed CBI for first "having taken the SC for a ride" and now "admitting to have made changes that were not substantial."
"In one breadth they admit to have shared the status reports, thereby, allowing interference in their investigation. On the other hand they claim changes were acceptable to them," Dave said. He demanded coalgate investigation to be handed over to an independent agency.
Substantial or not - the real question regarding the changes is the CBI's conduct in accommodating the executive's views in a court-monitored probe. Even legally, Sinha himself has admitted, the agency cannot share its status reports on probes with anybody.