The Supreme Court Friday asked the Centre for its stand on NGO Common Cause’s application to remove CBI director Ranjit Sinha from supervising the coal scam probe, while restraining the agency from filing charge sheets or closure reports in the case until the plea wasn’t decided.
A three-judge bench headed by chief justice RM Lodha, which had a heated exchange with the CBI director’s counsel when he said the court proceedings were meant for the media, also asked attorney general Mukul Rohatgi to produce the Income-Tax appraisal report against meat exporter Moin Qureshi who had visited Sinha’s 2, Janpath lane residence 90 times in the last 15 months. The direction came on Common Cause’s fresh application asking the IT report to be placed before the court.
“The Union of India of is a very important party in the issue and the Central Government has a vital role to play,” the bench told the AG. Rejecting Sinha’s prayer to hold in-camera proceedings, the bench said, “The beauty in the process is to have open court hearings”.
“Don’t take any precipitate action. You wait till the matter is taken up by the bench for next hearing and don’t take any final decision on any case,” the court told CBI counsel Amarendra Sharan, when Common Cause counsel Prashant Bhushan submitted that the director was forcing CBI to close cases.
Rohatgi admitted to the IT raids at Qureshi’s residence, tapping of his phones and seizure of his computers. He said the report would be placed in a sealed cover on October 17, the next date of hearing.
The decision to get a Centre’s view on the controversy is a departure from a two-judge bench September 15 order asking Bhushan to reveal the identity of the whistleblower who handed him the visitors logbook of Sinha’s residence, a direction declined by the activist lawyer.
Bhushan has sought Sinha’s removal as probe supervisor in th 2G and coal scam cases on the basis of the visitors register which records those who met the CBI boss at his home.
The order came amid protests by Sinha’s counsel, Vikas Singh, who accused Bhushan of making allegations to “serve the media.”
Sinha decried him for raking up the issue again, while another bench was already seized of how Bhushan got the visitors logbook. He took objection to the hearing without Sinha on notice and contended that the court was “doing what Bhushan said.”
The submissions irked the bench. “It is very unfortunate that it is happening in the highest court and that too in the first court,” said CJI Lodha, adding “You cannot hijack the proceedings. You don’t teach us. Let him argue his case. We do not expect this from a senior advocate such as you.”
CBI counsel senior advocate Amarendra Sharan accused Bhushan of resorting to bench-hunting and alleged he was making baseless allegations.