The order of the Supreme Court in the 2G scam case cancelling 122 2G licences has stirred a debate on the “superintendence” of the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) over the Central Bureau of Investigation.

In the verdict delivered last week, the court gave a clear message of zero tolerance to corruption and strongly indicted the former Telecom Minister, A. Raja, lodged in jail for the past one year, and directed the CVC and the senior Vigilance Commissioner to examine the reports of the investigation conducted by the CBI and other agencies and send their observations/suggestions to the apex court in sealed envelopes.

Recalling the Supreme Court's directions in the Vineet Narain case way back in 1997 and the provisions of the 2003 CVC Act, the former CBI Director, Vijay Shankar, said on Monday that the “superintendence” of the CVC over the country's premier investigating agency meant apprising the CVC of the ongoing probe in cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Stressing that the investigations by the CBI were conducted under the provisions of the Criminal Procedure Code, Mr. Shankar said the CVC did not have powers to interfere with the probe in any manner. In fact, even the constitutional courts did not interfere with the investigation. With the Supreme Court deciding to go in for monitoring by the CVC, he said, it would mean that the agency would submit its reports to the CVC, which would give its comments and suggestions and submit them to the Supreme Court.

Mr. Shankar pointed out that ordinarily, under the existing law, there was no provision for a mechanism like the Special Investigation Team (SIT). “The court can give such direction under extraordinary circumstances or when a situation surrounding a particular matter has become so complicated that the investigation agency feels handicapped in performing its duties in a fair, objective and fearless manner,” he told The Hindu.

During meetings with the CVC, issues such as pendency in anti-corruption cases, delay in getting sanction for prosecution used to be raised. He recalled that on several occasions the CVC also offered assistance in writing letters to the departments concerned for expediting sanctions against government servants involved in corruption cases.

Another area of “superintendence” pertained to administrative matters, he said. Mr. Shankar said the CVC was informed and its approval taken for induction of officers of the rank of SP and above in the CBI. He said the need of the hour was to empower the CBI in order to make it more efficient.

Another former CBI Director, who did not wish to be named, said there were regular interactions between the agency and the CVC as a matter of routine. He said court-monitored investigations had been conducted in the past by the CBI in the hawala scam, the Taj Corridor case, the fodder scam and the Bhanwari Devi kidnapping case. However, he pointed out that under the law only the trial court could direct the investigation agency to probe a particular angle or aspect.

He said that monitoring by the Supreme Court meant apprising the court of the progress in the investigation and submitting the status report. “The fear of indictment or invoking the wrath of the apex court is always there,” he said. He pointed out that the trial court had disagreed with the CBI's closure report in the sensational Aarushi Talwar murder case and asked it to proceed further. Even the Supreme Court, in its recent judgment, agreed with the findings of the trial court and directed Aarushi's parents to face trial.

The Supreme Court judgment in the 2G case also clarified that the “power of superintendence could not be used by the CVC for interfering with the manner and method of investigation or consideration of any case by the CBI in a particular manner.”

However, the apex court felt that keeping in view the nature of the 2G case and involvement of a large number of influential persons, it would be appropriate to require the CVC and the Senior Vigilance Commissioner to “render assistance to the court in effectively monitoring the further investigation of the case.”

In the wake of the Supreme Court order in the 2G case, informed sources said Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar and CBI Director A.P. Singh were likely to meet this month to discuss the further course of action.

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