Trouble mounts for CBI ex-chief as SC panel says he met coal scam accused
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Trouble mounts for CBI ex-chief as SC panel says he met coal scam accused

A Supreme Court-appointed panel said on Monday it appeared prima facie that former CBI director Ranjit Sinha had tried to influence investigations in an alleged scam involving government allocations of coalfields.

india Updated: Jul 13, 2016 01:14 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times
Coal scam,CBI ex-director Ranjit Sinha,Coal blocks allocation
Police have been investigating suspected collusion between government officials and private companies in under-priced sales of coalfields, which the Comptroller and Auditor General said in 2012 might have cost India around 1.86 lakh crore in lost revenue.(HT File Photo)

A Supreme Court-appointed panel on Tuesday indicted former CBI director Ranjit Sinha for meeting several accused in the coal scam when the investigating agency was probing on the court’s orders.

The scam involved alleged corruption and financial irregularities in the allocation of coalfields from 2004 to 2009 when the UPA was in power. The Comptroller and Auditor General said in 2012 the scam might have caused around `1.86 lakh crore of revenue loss to the country.

Sinha, who was heading the CBI at the time, was not supposed to meet the accused as an investigating officer, or officers, had been handling the top court-monitored probe.

The multiple meetings between Sinha and the accused indicated that the investigations might have been influenced, said attorney general Mukul Rohatgi, as he read out details of the panel’s findings to a special bench headed by Justice MB Lokur on Tuesday.

The panel was formed in 2015 to probe allegations that a visitor’s book from Sinha’s official residence in New Delhi showed he met several accused in the coal scam.

The meetings triggered suspicion that the CBI chief tried to influence investigation into alleged collusion between government officials and private companies for under-priced sales of coalfields.

Read: Ranjit Sinha had ordered closure of coal scam report: Investigator

In 2014, the top court had revoked the allocation of more than 200 coal blocks allocated by the UPA government.

The panel said the visitor’s book and its entries were genuine.

The findings might have a bearing on the outcome of the trial in coal scam cases as the accused could claim the entire investigation was vitiated by Sinha’s unethical conduct.

Rohatgi said the inquiry panel led by former CBI special director ML Sharma has verified the authenticity of the visitor’s book. But the correctness of the entries can only be ascertained through evidence, he added.

Read: SC dismisses plea to probe bribery charges against Ranjit Sinha

For his part, Sinha said there were many dubious entries in the visitor’s book.

His counsel, senior lawyer Vikas Singh, said Sinha was not in the national capital on many of the days in which the entries were made.

But the attorney general dismissed Sinha’s counter-allegation against petitioner Common Cause, an NGO, that it produced a fake entry register of those who visited the former CBI boss’s residence.

Common Cause accused Sinha of violating the code of conduct by meeting people facing a CBI probe. Its counsel Prashant Bhushan demanded a criminal case against Sinha.

The court, which reserved its verdict, pulled up the CBI for its tardy probe in the coal scam.

First Published: Jul 12, 2016 15:35 IST