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Supreme Court bars CBI chief from probing 2G scam

20 November 2014

CBI director Ranjit SinhaThe Supreme Court on Thursday directed Ranjit Sinha director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to recuse himself from all investigations into the 2G scam, for trying to subvert investigation by the agency he himself was heading. 

The judges said there is "credible" information that CBI director Ranjit Sinha has been trying to subvert his own agency's inquiry into the "2G scam", which involves the allocation of second-generation airwaves to different telecom service providers.

The apex court also said that the senior-most officer in the investigating team of the 2G scam will take over the role of CBI director in the case.

The court, however, did not give detailed orders to protect CBI's reputation, although, earlier in the day, the bench said there was some credibility in the allegations made by senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

"For us, it appears that all is not well and prima facie it seems that allegations made in the application by the NGO has some credibility," the bench observed.

The Supreme Court also pulled up the CBI chief for naming a senior IPS officer Santosh Rastogi as a mole, saying it was wrong on his part to have named him. It added that the court would take note of the issue and not allow the career of the official to be tarnished.

Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, who filed the petition in the SC, said he had never met Santosh Rastogi and did not get any document from him.

"If there is any evidence against the officer suspected by CBI director it must be produced before the court," advocate KK Venogopal told SC.

Special public prosecutor Anand Grover told the court that CBI director Ranjit Sinha interfered in 2G case which is "completely inconsistent with the agency's stand," adding "our case in 2G could have been demolished, if Sinha's stand was accepted."

Sinha has been accused by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan of trying to protect some of the telecom executives that his agency has charged with criminal conspiracy. As evidence, Bhushan submitted in September a diary of visitors to the CBI chief's home.

He had also submitted a list of the accused who have made regular calls to the CBI director's house.

Sinha tried to explain it away saying that his residence also includes an office and that he used to meet people who wanted to explain their defence. He also denied any wrongdoing or attempt at subterfuge.

The Supreme Court has been monitoring the CBI's investigation since 2010 based on a petition by Bhushan. 

The CBI says that the 2008 allocations of airwaves by the telecom ministry then headed by DMK leader A Raja were out of turn and that the minister took large bribes from firms for mobile network licences. The Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) had estimated the total loss to the exchequer at Rs1,76,000 crore from the mismanagement of the spectrum allocation.

Meanwhile, government sources have pointed out that as leaders of the opposition in both houses, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj - both union ministers now -  had written to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh objecting to the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as CBI chief. "It is time for those who appointed the current CBI director to introspect," sources said.

The UPA coalition government headed by Manmohan Singh was in power both when the telecom licences were handed out and when the auditor shared the estimate of losses.

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