Special Report

Amend act that gave birth to CBI

Amend act that gave birth to CBI

written by Olav Albuquerque : Some of the seven sections which comprise the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, (DSPEA)1946, will have to be amended to bring the CBI, under legislative jurisdiction, so that officers like deputy superintendent Ajay Kumar Bassi can probe his superior, special director Rakesh Asthana, without evidence being destroyed.

The Supreme Court order in 2013 to insulate the CBI from interference, has been rendered ineffective. Bassi has approached the Supreme Court to stay his transfer to Port Blair which will stymie his probe into Asthana, such as nine telephonic conversations between Asthana and alleged bribe-givers which were recorded. Asthana was brought into the CBI as he was the favourite of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, who was himself under suspicion when Judge Loya died of a heart attack.

It is only if the CBI is brought outside the purview of the executive that it will regain its credibility despite Vijay Mallya being allowed to flee from India, former finance minister Chidambaram’s being charge-sheeted in the Aircel-Maxis scam after a huge gap, and the Allahabad high court acquitting the doctor couple of Rajesh and Nupur Talwar for murdering their daughter and domestic servant Hemraj.

Never mind other high-profile mess-ups such as those in the Bofors scam and the Jain hawala scam. For what can you expect from an agency which has had two of its former directors charge-sheeted for corruption and abuse of authority? Both A K Singh and Ranjit Sinha were charged with corruption and abuse of authority in February and April 2017. Sinha had an open-door policy when he was the director with top politicians, businessmen and others coming to meet him at his official residence in Delhi to get their cases allegedly closed or diluted.

There have been few directors like Sinha. In 1996, as a DIG in the CBI under the joint director (east), U N Biswas, Sinha was accused of scuttling the probe into Lalu Prasad Yadav’s role in the fodder scam. U N Biswas was the chief investigator, whose progress was monitored by the Patna high court. The original harsh report by Biswas was toned down by Ranjit Sinha before it was submitted to the court. When the court asked why the submitted report did not carry details of the original charges, Biswas told the court that the report had been changed by the CBI director and the original report was more damaging. The court indicted the CBI and ordered Ranjit Sinha be removed from the probe.

In gratitude, Laloo Prasad Yadav ensured that Sinha became the Railway Protection Force chief when the former was the railway minister. Sinha, Biswas and other CBI officers apologised to the privilege committee council of the Bihar legislative assembly, which decided to drop privilege proceedings against them for lodging a complaint against them to the Patna high court. After taking over as the CBI director, Ranjit Sinha transferred four crucial officers investigating the fodder scam after getting the Jharkhand high court’s approval, but the orders were later cancelled by the Supreme Court after a PIL was filed. There can be no doubt that Ranjit Sinha was one of the most sleaziest directors to head the CBI.

His appointment by the Congress was questioned by the BJP which is today in a tizzy because both their present CBI director Alok Verma and their hand-picked special director Rakesh Asthana have been accused of taking bribes to scuttle sensitive probes. On October 6, Alok Verma had met Supreme Court lawyer Prashant Bhushan and former Union ministers Arun Shourie and Yashwant Sinha who handed him a petition with details about the alleged corruption in the purchase of 36 Rafale fighter jets from France.

But Prime Minister Narendra Modi will have none of it which could have been one of the reasons why Verma is today being probed for allegedly taking bribes. Modi has made it clear that any snooping into the purchase of the 36 Rafale jets will annoy him because even during the Congress regime, commissions in defence deals were not unheard of. The CBI filed an FIR against its special director Rakesh Asthana on the statement recorded by Sana Sathish Babu who says Asthana was paid bribes through two middlemen linked to RAW special secretary Samant Kumar Goel who gave inputs about Rajeshwar Singh’s alleged involvement with an ISI agent.

Asthana also allegedly received favours from the pharma firm Sterling Biotech’s promoters Chetan Sandesara and his family during Asthana’s daughter’s wedding. Not daunted by these complaints, Asthana sent a top secret letter to the CVC alleging that Sana Sathis Babu had paid Rs 2 crore as a bribe to his boss Alok Verma. Asthana alleged that when the CBI called Babu, Verma phoned Asthana and told him not to cross examine Babu. But Asthana ignored Verma’s orders. There have also been 18 departmental cases against Group A CBI officers, and 11 departmental cases against Group B and C CBI officers. This is because when the CBI chiefs are themselves allegedly on-the-take, there is no reason why those below them should remain clean. Forget the CBI’s own internal vigilance cell which may not be very effective in monitoring corruption among those who probe the corrupt.

The point here is that the 7,000 strong CBI office is demoralised with 1,328 vacancies yet to be filled. But whether it is allegedly corrupt directors like A K Singh, Ranjit Sinha, Alok Verma or Rakesh Asthana, one can be sure that high profile politicians may be discharged or acquitted because the evidence against them may be diluted. And so we will have a tainted CBI masquerading as the country’s premier investigative agency until the DSPEA is amended to bring the CBI out of the purview of the executive.

Olav Albuquerque holds a PhD in law and is a lawyer-cum-journalist of the Bombay high court.



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