CBI seeks to expedite process to prosecute ex-IAS, 4 IAF officers
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has asked the ministry of defence (MoD) to speed up the sanction it needs to give to prosecute former defence secretary Shashi Kant Sharma and four Indian Air Force (IAF) officers in the case related to alleged irregularities in the purchase of AgustaWestland helicopters, people familiar with the development said.
MoD is learnt to have informed the central agency that the request is under consideration and will be processed soon, the people added on condition of anonymity.
After completing its investigation against Sharma and four IAF officers – former air vice marshal Jasbir Singh Panesar, deputy chief test pilot S A Kunte, wing commander Thomas Mathew and former group captain N Santosh -- a Special Investigation Team handling the probe sought sanction for their prosecution because it wanted to file a supplementary charge-sheet in the case.
The agency recently decided to send a reminder to the MoD asking it to expedite the sanction so that the supplementary charge-sheet, which is almost ready, can be filed at the earliest, said a CBI officer who didn’t want to be named.
In the case, bribes were allegedly paid to middlemen when India agreed to buy 12 AgustaWestland helicopters at an estimated cost of Rs3,600 crore.
The purchase, cleared in 2010 by the previous United Progressive Alliance government, envisaged replacing ageing Mi-8 choppers to ferry VVIPs such as the President, vice-president, Prime Minister and the other dignitaries.The deal was eventually cancelled in January 2014.
Pending sanctions of prosecution is a key reason the CBI is often not able to file charge-sheets in such cases on time.
In fact, the anti-corruption agency has been waiting for sanction from the Centre and several state governments to prosecute at least 110 politicians and government officials for over four months in at least 73 cases.
Prominent cases in which the concerned department is yet to decide on sanction include the Narada sting case against four Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders -- Sougata Roy, Kakoli Ghosh Dastidar, Prasun Banerjee and former TMC leader Suvendu Adhikar -- and the case of alleged irregularities in coal block allocations against former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda.
In its probe against Shashi Kant Sharma, CBI has found that the retired Indian Administrative Service officer, as joint secretary (air) in MoD, played a key role in most of the decisions taken since 2005 until 2010 that skewed the selection in favour of AgustaWestland .
The agency has alleged that Sharma, who had become director general (acquisition) by September 2006, approved the request for proposal (RFP) document for the contract as well as the technical evaluation committee (TEC) report for the field trials.
Sharma didn’t respond to an email query . He had defended himself against the allegations last year, saying: “I had a long unblemished service record of over 40 years and nobody can blame me for any malafide action or decision. I strongly and firmly deny any such frivolous allegation”.
The four former IAF officers could not be located for comment.
Retired IPS officer Neeraj Kumar, who probed 1993 Mumbai serial blasts in CBI, said, “By delaying prosecution sanctions, what are ministries/department trying to prove? That they condone the corruption? Delays not only affect the trial in corruption cases but also help the accused officials.”
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