The Supreme Court Wednesday took strong exception to a senior CBI officer related to Congress MP Navin Jindal’s family supervising the Coalgate investigation. Jindal is an accused in the coal block allocation scam.
Bringing the fact to the court’s notice, Prashant Bhushan, counsel for petitioner Common Cause, an NGO, attacked CBI joint director OP Gahlotra over the filing of closure reports in several scam-related cases and accused him of not probing the scam in the right direction. Though Gahlotra is not involved in the investigation of the case related to Jindal, Bhushan said he was probing similarly placed cases and differing with investigating officers on the issue of filing charge sheets.
The bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha refrained from passing orders on Galhotra after CBI counsel Amarendra Sharan said he’d take instructions on whether the officer could recuse himself. Disagreeing with Sharan’s view that a recusal would be a “stigma” on the officer, it sought a response by Thursday.
Taking a shot at Sharan too, Bhushan alleged he was advising the CBI to desist from filing charge sheets. Sharan is privy to the agency’s status reports. “First he opposed the appointment of amicus curiae and then sought permission to see status reports. In the guise of seeing status reports, he is now sitting above everybody and advising the CBI not to file charge sheets,” Bhushan alleged. Sharan refuted the allegation, calling it a personal attack without basis.
On the CBI’s opposition to the SC order to share files with the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Bhushan said if the agency was reluctant to take the CVC’s view, then it was a fit case for a special investigation team probe.
The SC, too, agreed that all cases should come under the CVC scanner and hinted at modifying its order, if required.
It rejected Sharan’s argument that handing over files to the CVC would go against the CrPc, which makes it mandatory for the agency to file charge sheets in competent courts with all material.
“Why are we monitoring? It is because there should be a fair probe. Why should we do something that shatters public faith,” the bench asked.
The CBI has so far filed 18 cases (FIRs) in Coalgate, of which it has closed four and filed charge sheets in two — including one against Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda. The cases stem from five preliminary enquiries conducted by the agency into irregularities in coal block allocations between 1993 and 2009. With differences cropping up between senior officers and investigating officers with regard to 20 of 169 companies named in the second PE, the SC had on March 28 asked the CBI to show the files of these 20 companies to the CVC.