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The court has placed its trust on the premier investigation agency to carry out the job

~By Sujit Bhar    

This is the first time that India will see a seemingly independent investigation body—that too, the top one—looking into possible corruption by its former chief. The Supreme Court on Monday (January 23) set this precedent by ordering the current chief of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to set up a SIT to look into allegations of irregularities in the coal bloc scam by former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha.

While this case has stained the reputation of the CBI, the court action could reinstate it to its premier position. A bench headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, while issuing the order, said the court was convinced of the involvement of Sinha in the abuse of power.

It has been proved that Sinha had met several suspects in the scam at his home several times as private firms got access to coal blocs out of turn, during the earlier UPA government.

This responsibility falls on the CBI’s new chief Alok Verma, according to the bench. Information provided to the Supreme Court said Sinha had met these suspect people “50-60 times” at his home. This ran totally against the responsibilities and strictures of the position of CBI chief.

Last year, the visitors’ book from Sinha’s official residence was presented to the judges and they had authenticated it. Which means that the fact of Sinha’s meetings with the accused has been established.

The court, while passing the order, said: “Prima facie, a case is made out against Sinha for allegedly conniving with certain accused in the coal scam.” It will be Verma’s duty to tow the court line and order investigations—which are of a criminal nature—against Sinha.

There remained a technicality of the impartiality of the CBI in investigating its own former chief. The court, however, said that there was no need for an outside team, placing its trust instead on the CBI to be able to carry out the job.

The scandal surfaced when the Comptroller and Auditor General of India found discrepancies totalling Rs 1.86 lakh crore. This happened under the watch of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The CBI had filed its charge sheet in April 2015.

Lead picture: Former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha

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