New Delhi: The top man of India's premier investigating agency has been removed today by the Supreme Court from an inquiry into one of the country's largest financial swindles.
The judges ruled that there is "credible" information that CBI director Ranjit Sinha has been trying to interfere with his own agency's inquiry on the telecom scandal, dubbed the "2G scam" after the second-generation airwaves involved.
Mr Sinha said he will "abide by the court order." The CBI chief is to retire in December; sources close to him said he does not plan to quit.
Mr Sinha has been accused by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan of trying to protect some of the telecom executives that his agency has charged with criminal conspiracy. As evidence, Mr Bhushan submitted in September a diary of visitors to the CBI chief's home.
Regular house calls were made by people from the firms being investigated, including the Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group which owns Reliance Telecom.
Mr Sinha has denied any wrongdoing or attempt at subterfuge. That posit was rejected by the Supreme Court today, which said, "We are not giving elaborate reasons for this order because the CBI as an agency has a reputation, and if we give elaborate orders, it will tarnish their image."
The Supreme Court has been monitoring the CBI's investigation since 2010 based on a petition by Mr Bhushan.
The CBI says that in 2008, then Telecom Minister A Raja took large bribes from firms who were given out-of-turn mobile network licenses; second-generation airwaves were attached to the licenses for no extra cost. The entire swindle was worth Rs 1.76 lakh crores according to the national auditor whose report in 2010 ignited a national controversy.
Dr Manmohan Singh's coalition government was in power both when the telecom licenses were handed out and when the auditor shared the estimate of losses. The 2G scam became one of a retinue of corruption scandals that engulfed Dr Singh's government, which was trounced in this year's election.