Coal scam: SC directs probe against former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha

Former CBI chief Ranjit SinhaThe Supreme Court today directed the Central Bureau of Ivestigations (CBI) to investigate the charges against former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha in connection with the coal block allocation scam probe.

A special bench of the apex court headed by Justice Madan B Lokur gave its verdict based on the report by a special judicial panel, which held that prima facie there was an attempt to influence investigation into the scam by Sinha.

''A prima facie case can be made against him,'' the court said while refusing to express any opinion on the veracity of the allegations.

A bench asked new CBI director Alok Verma to constitute a special investigation team to probe Sinha. It also directed Verma to suggest composition of the team and asked him to give a timeline within which the probe would be completed.

Verma, who was appointed CBI chief on 19 January, will now start with an investigation into the working of the organisation that he now heads.

The court further said that it trusted the CBI for conducting an impartial and fair investigation and that there was no need to set up a probe team outside CBI in view of the change in guard.

The bench also asked the CBI to take Central Vigilance Commission along in conducting the probe and also sought assistance of R S Cheema, the special prosecutor in the coal block allocation cases at the Special Court.

The order came on the plea filed by Common Cause, an NGO led by advocate Prashant Bhushan alleging that entries in the visitor's diary of Sinha's residence showed that he met with several people accused in the coal scam while CBI was conducting its investigation. He was the director of the CBI at that time.

The apex court in September 2015 appointed a team led by former CBI special director M L Sharma to probe if ''investigations conducted by the CBI have been influenced in any manner by Ranjit Sinha in respect of the accused in the coal block allocation case.''

In 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation of more than 200 coal blocks, finding the process arbitrary and illegal.