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Sunday, Sep 15, 2019

CBI’s Nageswara Rao fined for SC contempt, to sit in corner of courtroom

CJI Gogoi asked Attorney General KK Venugopal, who appeared for Rao, “would heavens have fallen” if the transfer order was not issued.

india Updated: Feb 12, 2019 16:08 IST
Bhadra Sinha
Bhadra Sinha
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Rao, earlier, apologised to the Supreme Court for issuing the order of transfer of CBI officer AK Sharma, who was investigating the Bihar shelter home case involving alleged abuse of minor girls.
Rao, earlier, apologised to the Supreme Court for issuing the order of transfer of CBI officer AK Sharma, who was investigating the Bihar shelter home case involving alleged abuse of minor girls.(PTI)
         

M Nageswara Rao, the CBI’s ex-interim director who apologized to the Supreme Court for transferring a CBI officer AK Sharma probing the Bihar shelter home, committed contempt of court, a bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi ruled on Tuesday, rejecting the apology sent by two senior CBI officials.

The top court ordered Rao and the CBI legal adviser to pay Rs 1 lakh fine within a week and sentenced them till the rising of the court. This means, they have to sit in a corner of the Chief Justice’s court until the end of the court proceedings for the day.

As CBI’s interim chief earlier, Rao had signed off on the transfer orders of CBI AK Sharma who was supervising the investigation into the abuse of inmates at Bihar’s shelter homes. Chief Justice Gogoi said there were explicit orders by the top court not to move out officers leading the Bihar probe without its permission.

But the government transferred several officers last month, some of them out of the agency after cutting short their tenure in view of the clash between two top CBI officers, ex-CBI director Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana. AK Sharma was one of them.

Last week, a bench of Chief Justice Gogoi and justices L Nageswara Rao and Sanjiv Khanna had asked Nageswara Rao to explain if he informed the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet that AK Sharma could not be transferred without the top court’s approval.

Nageswara Rao, staring at contempt of court punishment, had filed an affidavit in his response. He apologized profusely, insisting that he could not even dream of disobeying the court order.

Attorney General KK Venugopal asked the judges to accept his apology and let him off the hook.

Also Read | Kolkata police raid firms ‘linked’ to wife of ex-CBI interim chief Rao

But Chief Justice Gogoi would have none of it.

The judge, who looked at the files, pointed to the sequence of events and the file notings that pointed that Nageswara Rao, who was holding interim charge as CBI director, and the legal adviser did agree that they should take the Supreme Court into confidence before implementing the transfer.

But when the file eventually came to him again, the legal adviser opined that they could skip this step. And the interim CBI director played along.

“Would heavens have fallen” if the transfer order was issued a day later, the CJI asked the government’s top officer.

Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi said that in his 20 years as a judge, he had not compromised on the dignity and honour of the court.

KK Venugopal told the judges that the former CBI interim chief did not “do it willfully and throws himself to the mercy of the court. “Holding him guilty of contempt would result in his career being ruined,” the government’s top law officer pleaded.

An angry CJI Gogoi said, “Mr Attorney General, let us be very clear. I don’t think any of us ever had the occasion to invoke a contempt power. But it has to be the first time. Speaking for myself, I believe dignity and majesty of court should be maintained and this is blatant.”

AK Sharma, a joint director in the CBI, was the senior-most supervising officer in the Bihar shelter home case and the court, in two orders dated October 31 and November 28, said he should not be transferred.

After his transfer, Sharma was appointed the additional director general in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF). Records placed before the court indicated that agency’s acting director of prosecution S Bhasuran had given an opinion favouring the transfer.

Bhasuran had also apologised to the top court.

A report by the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) had highlighted that dozens of girls lodged at a government funded-shelter home in Muzaffarpur were allegedly being sexually assaulted.

First Published: Feb 12, 2019 12:04 IST