CBI Chief Says He's Not Embarrassed; Others Say He Should Be

CBI Chief Says He's Not Embarrassed; Others Say He Should Be

File photo of CBI chief Ranjit Sinha

New Delhi: For at least one of his two years as the top boss of the CBI, Ranjit Sinha has been busy with elaborate celebrations of the agency's 50th anniversary.  

It is his own tenure, however, that has considerably damaged the perception of the country's premier investigating agency.  Mr Sinha has earned the dubious distinction of being described as the head of a "caged parrot" for allowing the government to try and alter a confidential report from him meant for the Supreme Court on the coal scandal; yesterday, he was removed by the top court for alleged interference in the CBI's inquiry into the telecom scam.

Mr Sinha has said that his dismissal, which comes days before his retirement, is not fecund with embarrassment and that he will not resign. On that posit, he appears to be in solitary confinement. 

"It's the lowest point in the CBI's existence,'' said a very disturbed Vijay Shankar, who has served as director of the CBI.  "It's as if someone had pointed fingers at me," he added, while asserting that the government must act immediately to restore the credibility of the CBI. The only way to do that is to ask him to go home,'' said Mr Shankar to NDTV.

It's not a clear cut matter, though. While Mr Shankar feels that the government has the power to remove the CBI director, others point out that the dismissal process has to be the same as the one used to select him.  So the panel that chose Mr Sinha - which included the Home Secretary, the secretary of the Department of Personnel and the Chief Vigilance Commissioners  - should initiate action against him is one view.

"They can't remove him without a probe as right now, the Supreme Court didn't order an investigation against him, they just asked him to be recused,'' said one former director who didn't want to be named, ""and there's no time to conduct a probe as he retires just in 12 days.''

However, this officer said that Mr Sinha should go on leave of his own volition, even if the government can't ask him to.

While the CBI boss has never before been told to stay off a case, there have been instances of recusals in the past. For instance, Mr Sinha's predecessor, AP Singh, recused himself from the case of Rajya Sabha seats being sold in Jharkhand. The CBI was probing the events that led to the Rajya Sabha elections being countermanded in March, 2012 and  Mr Singh recused himself saying that he'd worked with then Chief Minister Arjun Munda. It was, of course, a voluntary decision taken to avoid any negative public perception.

Mr Singh's predecessor had also recused himself from a case. In 2009, when the CBI started probing suspended IPS officer BS Thind for disproportionate assets, then director Ashwani Kumar recused himself. Mr Kumar had been the head of Himachal Pradesh police and didn't want to foster allegations or concerns about  bias for a former colleague.

In fact, as an unspoken rule, officers are usually never asked to probe a case in their parent cadre state. So for instance, Superintendent of Police Sumit Sharan was on the 2G investigation team but left it as soon as former Telecom Minister A Raja was included in the scope of inquiry, because he was from the Tamil Nadu cadre.
 
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