It was perhaps the worst ever indictment of the Central Bureau of Investigation. The Supreme Court on Tuesday blasted the ‘premier’ investigating agency for having acted on the directions of the Centre in the disproportionate assets probe against Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav and his family members.
“You (CBI) are acting at the behest of the central government and law ministry. You are not acting on your own,” the court said after Additio-nal Solicitor General (ASG) Mohan Para-saran admitted the CBI’s plea to withdraw an application for filing its probe report before the court was based on the government’s direction.
“Do you realise what you are saying? It is very unusual… Why you filed the interim application on the opinion of the Centre? If this is the ground for filing the application, God help us," a bench of Justices Altmas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph said.
There was more drama. Senior counsel Harish Salve told the court on behalf of Mulayam he wanted to place on record a DVD to expose petitioner Vishwanath Chaturvedi. He also demanded in-camera hearing of the case. The court agreed to allow Mulayam to file an affidavit with the DVD and to hear his review petitions against the March 1, 2007 order for a CBI probe against him.
Parasaran got a mouthful from the court when he failed to give any cogent argument for seeking withdrawal of the CBI application. “Why did you go to the Centre? You should have come to us,” the bench said while reserving the order on the CBI’s plea for withdrawing its application. The court was appaled when it came to know the CBI is in the habit of seeking the law ministry’s “advice” in important cases. The ASG said: “Whatever the court’s order, we will abide by that.” When the court pressed for further legal submissions, he said: “I can’t put it better.”
Parasaran’s submission was followed by a brief argument by Solicitor General G.E. Vahanvati, who said the Centre did not object to the CBI placing the probe report before the court. Indicating a U-turn in the Centre’s stand, he said the government only wanted the CBI to consider the representations made by Mulayam and family.
The CBI came in for criticism from Salve too, who said the agen-cy had lost all credibility and was being used to target political adversaries. He demanded a judicial inquiry into the episode, including the conduct of the CBI, which allegedly leaked the probe report to the press.
Joining him was senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, counsel for the petitioner. He alleged: “The CBI has sold its soul.” He said the agency was acting at the behest of the government against its own manual and the court’s guidelines. Tulsi also said there was a threat to his client’s life, after which the court asked the UP government to provide security to Chaturvedi.
Acting on Chaturvedi’s petition, the court on March 1, 2007 ordered a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into the alleged disproportionate assets of Mula-yam, his sons and daughter-in-law. The court asked the CBI to place the report before the Centre. But in October 2007, the CBI moved an application seeking permission to submit its report to the court on the ground that relevant legal provisions did not permit it. But after the Congress and SP came close during the July 2008 trust vote, it filed another application in December for withdrawal of its earlier plea and for submitting the report to the government.