A day after the Gauhati high court declared the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to be an illegal entity, those being tried by CBI courts including 2G accused A Raja and 1984 riots accused Sajjan Kumar attempted to use the judgement to stay legal proceedings against them.
The government and the CBI, in turn, scurried to contain the fallout of the ruling.
“The government will move the SC tomorrow (Saturday) against the judgement declaring CBI unconstitutional,” said CBI director Ranjit Sinha. A CBI source said while the appeal will be filed on Saturday, the apex court may only hear it on Monday.
“We will tell the Supreme Court that the CBI was set up by a home ministry resolution and it has been there for last 50 years. So, it should be allowed to continue. CBI is handling many sensitive cases. This will affect its functioning,” said minister of state for personnel, V Narayanasamy.
This came even as Manu Sharma, lawyer of former telecom minister A Raja, and Majeed Memon, the counsel of 2G accused Vinod Goenka, the promoter of Swan Telecom, demanded that proceedings against their clients be stayed or it would amount to contempt of the HC order.
However, special CBI judge OP Saini declined the oral plea. “I have read the newspaper but I cannot go by media reports,” Saini said. Both lawyers said they would move a formal application in this regard on Monday.
Kumar too cited the HC verdict demanding the winding up of the case against him. But district judge JR Aryan said it was too early to take a call on such an important issue.
Noted jurists were of the view that the controversial judgment will come in handy for high profile accused in other cases as the "gates of prisons will be left open" and convicts in CBI cases will be let "scot-free".
The legal experts said till the decision is stayed by the Supreme Court, CBI would not be in a position to register fresh cases or make any arrest and all the pending cases would become "illegal". Further, convictions in CBI cases since its inception would become "void", they said.
Official documents show the government has only itself to blame for this strange turn of events since the CBI had, in 2010, sent the government a draft bill to provide it with legal backing but the government sat on it till the Supreme Court called the agency a “caged parrot” and sought details of the bill.
READ: CBI, secure in the cage?
The government also ignored repeated recommendations by parliamentary panels on the subject. The Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) has administrative control over the CBI.
In a report tabled in Parliament on May 3, the parliamentary panel on personnel and law termed as “archaic” the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act, 1946, which governs the CBI as per the DoPT.
The panel recommended that either the DSPE Act be amended or a fresh law be made to provide legal backing to the CBI along with sufficient functional and financial powers.
In another report in March, the panel recommended a legislation along the lines of the National Investigation Agency Act, 2008, so that CBI could probe corruption cases throughout the country without the consent of the states.
VIDEO: Govt will go to SC to challenge Gauhati HC order: Narayanasamy