Monday, August 15, 2022

The diary whodunnit

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The VVIP’s who entered their names in the diary at the CBI director’s house were a veritable who’s who of people to whom the needle of suspicion was pointing in various criminal cases

By Vishwas Kumar

The  identity of the “whistleblower” who obtained the visitors’ diary of Ranjit Sinha, the director of the Central Bureau of Inves-tigation (CBI) and handed it over to senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan, is still wrapped in mystery. It is still not clear whether both are the same person or whether the person, whom Bhushan described a “trusted source”, belongs to the CBI or other government agencies, such as the Intelligence Bureau (IB), Delhi Police or ITBP (Indo Tibetan Border Police), who guard his residence.

What is, however, clear is that the “whistleblower” is the same person who also obtained the highly-confidential letter that Sinha had exchanged with the then 2G case Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) UU Lalit, asking for “re-investigation” of the case in view of “fresh evidences”. It is not a coincidence that the letter and the diary were leaked to the same newspaper—the DNA, based in Mumbai. Whereas the first story on the Lalit-Sinha letter was published on August 2, 2014, the second on the diary was printed on September 2, 2104.


Sources indicate that this “whistleblower” also has video evidence to establish connection between Sinha and those involved in the letter and the diary, many of whom are directly involved in the 2G case. Based on these prima facie evidences, the “whistleblower” could either belong to a corporate entity, a private investigating agency or a government firm.

Big corporates are known to seek the help of professional sleuths, often full of retired officials from intelligence agencies and the police, to snoop on their competitors. The two big scams, 2G and Coalgate, probed by the CBI, involve billion dollar companies owned by the Ambanis, Tatas, Birlas, Chandras and Ruias. It is possible that some of Sinha’s actions alarmed one of them, who felt targeted by a rival. This could have instigated it to engage a professional spy to keep an eye on the activities of others. The efforts paid off when it learnt that security guards at Sinha’s residence had been maintaining a detailed logbook of visitors.

The logbook, of no worth to security guards, could have been easily procured at a small cost. Some 50 personnel, drawn from the ITBP and Delhi Police, guard his residence and one of them could easily have been lured. However, if the Intelligence Bureau (IB) was involved, it would be an easy job for them to get the help of the Delhi Police and ITBP. Both of them, involved in VIP security, depend on their respective organization’s “intelligence unit” to get updates on different types of “threats” that their “protectee” faces. These organizations are also obliged to pass on sensitive information to their nodal agency, the home ministry, which in turn, sometime alerts the IB. And the IB is duty-bound to bring all this information to the notice of the PMO, basically the National Security Advisor, who in turn, informs the prime minister.

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The visitors’ diary is a register running into 300 pages. All entries are handwritten and start from May 2, 2013, and end on August 15, 2014. It has the visitor’s name, car no, time of entry and exit. In a few cases, there are also contact numbers. There are half-a-dozen multiple handwritings, suggesting that it is the handiwork of more than one person. At some point, it was also mentioned that instructions were given by Sinha’s wife to allow free entry of a few “selected” persons.


During the period of the diary entries, several important developments took place, impacting the CBI’s conduct. The most important was Narendra Modi becoming the prime minister with a resounding victory. Also, the fact that he appointed former director of IB, Ajit Doval, as national security advisor, is significant. Both were targets of a CBI probe into “fake encounter” killings in Gujarat. While they were exonerated, several of their colleagues got involved, which left them bitter, said a senior intelligence official.

However, the most important aspect of the diary is the date of entry when the visits to Sinha began—May 2, 2013. The government was headed by Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh and the Joint Parliamentary Commi-ttee was set up to probe the 2G scam. This had virtually split the BJP and the Congress. This was also when the Supreme Court (SC), monitoring the Coalgate case, had come down heavily on Sinha and the then law minister Ashwini Kumar for “watering down” the affidavits filed in the case.

It was alleged that Kumar had forced Sinha to make changes in the direction of the probe to “shield” the PM, who was coal minister during this period. It is possible that Singh and several officials in the PMO, who were under the CBI’s scanner, had “officially” assigned the IB to keep a close watch on Sinha as any wrong turn in the case could have pre-maturely ended Dr Singh’s tenure. The practice, once started, continued after power equations changed.

In the 2G case, a new drama was unfolding. On May 2, 2013, a CD surfaced with an alleged conversation between CBI’s nominated public prosecutor AK Singh and Sanjay Chandra, owner of Unitech, and one of the prime accused in the case. The two were discussing certain aspects of the case. It caused a sensation and immediate removal of Singh. It also led the CBI to seek cancellation of Chandra’s bail, which the SC later turned down.


On May 29, 2013, Niraa Radia, a lobbyist linked to Chandra’s telecom company, Unitech Wireless and Tata Telecom, deposed before Special Judge OP Saini conducting trial in the 2G case. During her testimonies, she not only corroborated her statements given to the CBI during questioning, but also claimed that “Swan Telecom belonged to Anil Ambani” and that “it was not eligible for telecom license and spectrums”. She claimed that was the reason why her client, Tata Telecom, was denied spectrum allocation despite being eligible.

Two months later, Saini decided to call Anil Ambani and his wife, Tina, to depose as witnesses in the case. Their lawyers had stoutly contested Lalit’s request that Tina be summoned. But finally, the court found merit in Lalit’s arguments and the couple later deposed.

These developments created a lot of tension and rivalry among the corporates who were accused. While some got direct access to Sinha, others didn’t. It is likely that those who didn’t, decided to “expose” the others by “leaking” documents, namely the correspondence between Lalit and Sinha and the diary, both of which show a link between Ambani’s employees and Sinha, who later made an attempt to save them.

And the person to whom these documents were leaked, sources said, has had a long association with a key member of an NGO spearheading the campaign against Sinha.

The timing of the expose is also crucial—when the 2G trial has entered final phase. Saini had almost completed the case’s hearings and was in the process of reserving the judgment. But the new revelations could further delay the case if the SC directs the trial court to examine them.


It is also a moot question as to why a diary was maintained at Sinha’s residence. Since he has Z category protection, the Delhi Police maintained one logbook, while another was to mark security personnels’ attendance. It is speculated that the visitors’ diary was maintained by the ITPB jawans who secured the outer premises of the sprawling bungalow. And it was reportedly done on the directions of Sinha’s wife. If this is true, it is rather surprising that Sinha was ignorant about it. However, the other theory is that the “unofficial” visitors’ diary was maintained on the instructions of senior officials responsible for security—the Delhi Police and ITBP. While it is easy to get hold of the diary, a “highly confidential” letter between Sinha and Lalit could only be obtained by an “insider”. It is difficult for the IB to get access to these documents unless it was obtained by their “sources”.

For any accused corporate, tracking inside developments was crucial and it would have cultivated its “sources” within the CBI.
Moreover, the IB, already enraged over the CBI’s prosecution of its retired and serving officials for alleged fake encounter cases in Gujarat, would want to settle scores with Sinha when he retires in two months (December 1, 2014). There is a buzz that those involved in prosecuting Gujarat Police, BJP president Amit Shah and IB officials will be “suitably” punished.

The vicious rigmarole continues.

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