Politics

Is the Modi Government Shielding Former CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha in the Coal Scam Probe?

The government’s refusal to hand over relevant documents to the special investigation team shows its intent, says lawyer Prashant Bhushan.

Ranjit Sinha. Credit: PTI

Ranjit Sinha. Credit: PTI

New Delhi: The conduct of the Narendra Modi government in defending the accused in the 2G spectrum and coal allocation scams, which occurred under the UPA government, raises doubts about its intent in pursuing the case seriously. The government has constantly opposed the attempts of the Supreme Court-appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) to access the preliminary enquiry-related documents. Meanwhile, the SIT has indicted the former director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Ranjit Sinha, for meeting some of those accused at his home in New Delhi.

Speaking to The Wire, senior advocate Prashant Bhushan said “it was very obvious” from the attorney general and CBI counsel’s opposition to the move to hand over the enquiry documents to the SIT that “they were protecting Sinha”. It was on Bhushan’s submission of the visitors’ log entries from Sinha’s residence and his petition to constitute the SIT that the Supreme Court registered the case and appointed the panel, headed by former CBI special director M.L. Sharma.

Bhushan said the log entries pertained to a time when the Modi government was not yet in power. Why then is it now sheltering Sinha?

Bhushan pointed out that an advocate who has represented the Anil Ambani Group on a number of occasions has been allowed by the Centre to appear on its behalf and support the cause of the company. “This lawyer,” Bhushan said, “has represented many corporate houses, including Reliance ADAG, whose men would have met Ranjit Sinha at least 50 times. All those accused in the 2G scam have been his clients. He is known to interfere and give opinions in matters (on behalf of the government) in which he himself has been the lawyer of the company. He gives the opinion on behalf of the government”.

Highlighting a recent case, Bhushan said that the advocate had sought a higher compensation for Ambani’s company while representing the government in the Delhi airport link metro corridor matter.

Apart from the counsel’s interventions, the Modi government’s posturing also makes it appear that it wants to support Sinha, said Bhushan. “Take the case of the Essar tapes. The government does not want any investigation. That is why it has handed over the case to the police – so that it just squanders it away.”

Bhushan said the judgment on the Sinha case is expected soon. He is also awaiting the full report on the SIT’s findings, which was submitted in a sealed cover to the Supreme Court.

The details of the case

Reports say that the SIT had found that Sinha had indeed met some of the accused in the scam at his residence. This is reinforced by the entires in the visitors’ log maintained at his residence, a copy of which Bhushan submitted to the Supreme Court on September 2, 2014.

Bhushan demanded that Sinha be stopped from overseeing 2G cases as he was allegedly interfering in them. On September 9, he demanded that the officer be removed from the coal scam investigation and sought a SIT probe into the matter.

Bhushan claimed that among those who had easy access to Sinha and met him regularly were officials of the Reliance ADA Group and Mahendra Nahata, promoter of Himachal Futuristic Communications Ltd, who had benefited from the 2G scam. Devendra Darda, an accused in the coal scam, was also a visitor, according to Bhushan.

In November 2015, taking into account the nature of the charges, the Supreme Court asked Sinha to recuse himself from the ongoing probe into the 2G scam, even though he was due to retire only a month later.

Bhushan also filed an FIR against Sinha in November 2015 for alleged criminal misconduct and abuse of office.

Sinha claimed before the Supreme Court that Santosh Rastogi, a deputy inspector general-rank CBI officer, who had allegedly passed on the allegedly incriminatory file notes and documents to Bhushan, was a “mole”. He also filed a case of perjury against Bhushan, but his charges did not cut much ice.

Almost a year later, in December 2015, the Supreme Court decided to constitute a probe panel headed by Sharma. In April this year, the panel submitted its 205-page report to the Court, which is expected to pronounce its judgment soon.