Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Is the CBI protecting the accused?
Is the CBI protecting the accused? That is a trillion dollar question, my Lords. A Division Bench of Mumbai High Court comprising Justice P.B.Mazumdar and Justice R.D.Dhanuka, hearing a batch of PILs filed by some social activists seeking the HC monitoring of the Adarsh Housing Society scam and invoking the Prevention of Money Laundering Act in the case, asked the CBI: “why have you not arrested any of the accused yet? Are you feeling shy or are you just protecting the accused? ... Are the officers against whom you are probing still in service in government offices? ...Filing charge sheet should not stop you from arresting the accused. In several cases CBI arrests the accused first and then files charge sheet. Why are you making an exception in this case?”
It may be noted that CBI had registered a case in the scam of January 29th of 2011. The CBI counsels still had the gumption to seek eight more weeks from the High Court for filing Charges. The accused are real big wigs in politics and civil and military service, who could be expected to move and shakes things in every investigative agency even though some are retired or out of power. The names are interesting: the former Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Ashok Chavan, Congress leader K L Gidwani, retired army officers Lt.General P K Rampal, Major Generals A R Kumar and T K Kaul, Retired brigadier R C Sharma and M M Wanchoo, Subash Lala, then Principal Secretary to the CM, former Principal Secretary of the Urban development Department, Ramanand Tiwari, former Municipal Commissioner Jairaj Phatak IAS, and former Mumbai Collector Pradeep Vyas IAS. Congress leader Gidwani had the unique distinction of being caught red-handed while trying to bribe CBI lawyer for getting the charges against him in the case diluted, and was arrested. Please note, he was not arrested for his involvement in the case.
The High Court Division Bench has rapped the CBI, and advised them to “take action without fear or favour”, noting that their Lordships agreed that some of the accused are high-ranking politicians...my God! Did the country’s prime investigating agency need to be reminded of their basic duties? Were their Lordships reminding the likes of chowkidars?
Well, in fact India’s Central Bureau of Investigation needs to be reminded. I remember an Joint Director of CBI who knew his duties, was thoroughly embarrassed in Delhi High Court by his counsel when he snapped at the lawyer, KT Tulsi, if I remember right asking “are you arguing my case or the case of the accused”? It was the Bofors case which the CBI managed to scuttle in a manner befitting a banana republic’s investigating agency. The high-ranking CBI officer, K Madhavan, resigned soon after, in disgust when he could not investigate the Securities Scam in which Harsad Mehta, the man who advised Finance Minister Manmohan Singh (!) was a high-profile accused. When I last heard of him, he was taking up cases with the CBI on the opposite side almost with a vengeance, and making many times the salary CBI gave him for a thankless job. Well, remembering Mumbai BC’s reference to high-ranking politicians in Adarsh Co-operative Society case, there were indeed a high-ranking politicians involved in the Bofors and Securities Scam cases, acting against whom would have resulted in “destabilising the country”, as averred by two sitting judges of the Supreme Court of India said in a Commission report.
In the Rs.176000 crores 2G spectrum scam, when the U-nion Telecom Minister was the accused, initially we heard of the strange spectacle of CBI’s counsel, Union Government’s counsel and A.Raja’s counsel used to hold conferences! Now Raja is in the Jail, Kanimozhi is in jail, and many others involved in the scam are being prosecuted, but the Government of India represented by its Cabinet Ministers and the PM himself have at various stages tried to absolve A.Raja, and later employed maths to reduce the loss to the exchequer. The CBI has mentioned of only Rs.40000 crores scam in its charge sheet.
When the Supreme Court struck down the 2G licences illegally distributed to all and sundry, Union Minister Kapil Sibal went around inciting the foreign companies who were trapped in the scam to complain to their governments to use diplomatic pressure. He was worried in privately that the Supreme Court judgement would hamper FDI inflow into the country, investor confidence etc., though the Union Finance Minister did not utter a word in this regard. Some foreign investors in Indian telecom sector like Etisalat (in tie-p with the realty group DB) and Telenor (tied up with Unitech Group, another real estate company) have, however, acknowledged openly that they were duped by local partners into illegal arrangements. The Russian company Systema has asked the Indian government to honour the ‘Bilateral Investment Treaty' (BIT) with Russian Federation to protect its investments to the tune of $3.1 billion in the telecom joint venture, Sistema Shyam TeleServices Ltd.
Going back to the Adarsh Co-operative Society case, a very important outcome of the hearing on March 12, 2012 was the High Court Bench instructing the Enforcement Directorate, the Income Tax Department and the CBI to share their information in this case with each other, and asking the CBI to “contemplate” forming a joint team from all agencies. But this was “to avoid duplication of work”, mind you, not to achieve any unified work or outcome thereof. The Central government ultimately controls all these agencies, however independent they are proclaimed in theory, and we have seen in the cases of Laloo Yadav, Mulayam Singh Yadav and Mayawati and many many others, how wonderfully these agencies have worked to make a mockery of their establishment and maintenance by the country.
Before long you will know from media reports that the investigating officials who had made substantial headway thanks to the HC order, being transferred out, as Congress governments (in particular) have always done when they found officers acting correctly and with courage. Transferring such officers is the most harmless thing, for them. But those who had done good job against corrupt “high-ranking politicians” and civil service officers would routinely have vigilance enquiries initiated against them. Their promotions get delaid, their juniors will be made their seniors. Petitions filed by such officers before the Central Administrative Tribunal, courts and even the Supreme Court invariably fail because normal law in service jurisprudence has been that such incidents come under the purview of administrative action, not to be interfered with!