After seven hours of questioning on Tuesday, investigators are not ready to give any clean chit to former railway minister Pawan Kumar Bansal in the cash-for-lucrative postings scam involving his nephew Vijay Kumar Singla and suspended railway ministry official Mahesh Kumar.
“We have questioned Bansal. Only after the completion of full process of his questioning the probe can decide whether his role in the case is that of an accused or a witness,” said CBI director Ranjit Sinha told HT.
During the questioning Bansal denied any involvement in the bribery scandal.
“The former railway minister’s explanations regarding action taken or not taken by him in Mahesh Kumar’s postings or promotions will be matched with the other evidence gathered by the agency,” said a source privy to the details of the questioning.
The CBI has alleged that Mahesh Kumar, member (staff) of the railway board, wanted to become member (electrical) and to get his favourite post he struck a deal of Rs. 10 crore with the minister’s nephew and his associates. But the post of member (electrical) was to get vacant in two months. Therefore, till then, Mahesh Kumar bargained for additional charges of general manager (western railway) and signal and telecommunication and agreed to pay Rs. 2 crore upfront for them. Only a week before his arrest, Mahesh Kumar was promoted from GM (western railway) to the post of member (staff), a posting he didn’t like.
The CBI, listening to the conversations of Kumar with Singla and his associates, intercepted the first installment of Rs. 90 lakh of the total bribe money at the office of Singla on May 3. After the scandal, Bansal was forced to resign on May 10.
“Bansal had two arguments in his defence; one, he could have put the process of promotion of Kumar from GM (western railway) to member (staff) on hold for two months till the time the post of member (electrical) was to get vacant or second, he may also initiated the process two months in advance to accommodate Kumar as member (electrical). But he didn’t do any of these two things and instead appointed Kumar as member (staff),” said the source.
Besides, Bansal also maintained that he didn’t give the additional charge of signal and telecommunication directorate to Kumar and also no ‘looking after’ orders were ever issued by him for the charge of GM (western railway) for the suspended official.
Bansal’s questioning took place at a CBI guest house, almost five kilometers away from the agency headquarter, to avoid the media contingent gathered there.
During the questioning Bansal also argued that the promotion of Mahesh Kumar had been done under the rules and no officer senior to him was superceded when he was appointed as member (staff).
According to sources, investigators confronted Bansal with phone intercepts and also asked him on what basis Singla assured Kumar that his work will be done. But Bansal denied any knowledge of any such assurance.