Attorney-General G.E. Vahanvati told the Supreme Court on Wednesday that he would file an affidavit on July 3 to its query whether law could be enacted to insulate the CBI from extraneous influence and make the agency an independent organisation and to ensure its functional autonomy. The A-G wanted the court to prevent those directly connected with the coal blocks allocation case from appearing on television and attacking law officers and the government. The court, while sharing his concern did not pass any order in this regard.
When Justice R.M. Lodha said: “the CBI cannot be given unbridled power as an unruly horse is a dangerous thing,” the A-G said: “there must be checks and balances.” The court told senior counsel Uday Lalit, “You [CBI] are not applying your mind to this important and sensitive case. There are pulls and pressures from all quarters. You should have the capability to stand up to the pulls and pressures.”
The three-Judge Bench which included Justices Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph said that in the Vineet Narain case the court had laid down that though the minister concerned had the general power to review the working of the CBI to give policy directions, this would not give the Law Minister or any other Minister power to interfere with investigation.
The Bench recorded the questions raised by counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for ‘Common Cause’: “Can the Law Minister ask the CBI to show him the details of any investigation being done by them and seek changes in the status report to be filed in court, particularly when the investigation involves other ministers and the PMO? Can the CBI Director disclose the details of investigation to the Law Minister and counsel for the government and allow them to make changes in the report to be filed with the court? Does this not subvert the integrity of the investigation? Can the CBI officials disclose the details of the investigation to officials of the Ministries, which are being investigated and allow them to make changes in the report to be submitted to the court?” Mr. Bhushan also a special investigation team formed to conduct the probe into the coal blocks allocation case.
The Bench said it would consider these questions on July 10. It said: “Should the CBI Director or the investigation team feel that assistance of some experts in the matter is required, liberty is given to the CBI to make necessary application in this regard.”
Senior counsel Mr. Andhyarujina told the court that law officers were required to interact with CBI officers and advise them on constitutional issues and they could not be prevented from accessing the reports. However, Justice Lodha made it clear that the law officers could not access the reports to be submitted to the court as it was the job of the investigating officer concerned to give the report.
The Bench directed the CBI to file a status report on the progress of the investigation by July 8 and posted for further hearing to July 10.