New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation has denied news reports that the central government has been sitting on its request for sanction to prosecute the former joint director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED) from Gujarat in connection with a bribery case, noting that sanction was granted in September and that the trial court was informed of this in October itself.
The Indian Express, which had first reported the alleged delay, said the case against J. P. Singh – who supervised the investigation into the Surat hawala racket and IPL betting cases and allegedly accepted “huge bribes” from hawala operators as well as bookies for not arresting them during the investigation – has been hanging fire for seven months.
In its clarification, the CBI said that the agency sought sanction to prosecute Singh on April 18, 2017. Sanction was granted by the “competent authority” on September 25, 2017, received by the CBI on September 28, 2017 and mentioned this in court on October 5, 2017.
In a ‘correction and clarification’, the Indian Express on November 22, 2017 said it had erred in stating that the CBI had not been given sanction to prosecute.
Its reporter, however, noted a discrepancy between the CBI’s clarification and a list put out by the Central Vigilance Commission – which exercises a supervisory role over the CBI – in which J.P. Singh’s name figures among those for whom the CBI had yet to receive sanction to prosecute as on September 30, 2017 despite the passage of over four months.
Singh’s name figures at serial no. 13, even though the CBI now says it received sanction on September 28, 2017. Armed with the CVC’s list, the Indian Express says it asked the CBI about the status of the case before publishing its original story about the delay but received no response.
The CBI arrested Singh, a ‘Group A’ Indian Revenue Service officer, in February 2017, following a petition to the Prime Minister’s Office by some Gujarati businessmen. According to the daily, special director Rakesh Asthana was heading the Special Investigation Team (SIT) probing the case against Singh and seven months ago, the agency had sought prosecution sanction before filing a chargesheet.
The CBI later filed the chargesheet without getting sanction, charging Singh with “criminal conspiracy under the IPC and relevant provisions of the “Prevention of Corruption Act.” The Gujarat high court, however, granted Singh bail.
A top official told Indian Express that since Singh is an IRS officer, the finance ministry’s clearance for his prosecution was needed. However, despite several reminders by the central vigilance commissioner (CVC), who had set a deadline of three months for the competent authorities to take a decision on granting prosecution sanction, the finance ministry had failed to do so.
The investigating agency had alleged that bookie Manoj Jain paid Rs 2.75 crore to two other bookies — Bimal Agarwal and Sonu Jalan — on behalf of Singh, who allegedly also accepted bribe in a Rs 5,000 crore money laundering case against an alleged hawala operator from Surat.
Note: A earlier version of this story in The Wire was based solely on the Indian Express’s original article, which said sanction for prosecution had not yet been given.