Unprecedented indictment

The conventional narrative that the CBI is a ‘caged parrot’, that is, an institution struggling to assert its autonomy in the face of political pressure, was turned on its head by Ranjit Sinha.

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:28 pm IST

Published - November 22, 2014 12:14 am IST

The good thing about the tenure of Ranjit Sinha as Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation is that it is drawing to a close in the next few days. And when he exits the country’s premier agency, in which many have reposed faith for the competent investigation of sensitive cases, he would have contributed a substantial share to the erosion of its credibility. From letting the Law Minister vet a status report meant solely for the Supreme Court, to maintaining unauthorised contact with suspects under investigation, Mr. Sinha repeatedly let down his agency, the dignity of his office and the cause of justice. The Supreme Court’s order directing him to keep away from the investigation into the 2G spectrum cases is unprecedented. The charges relate to interference in the administration of justice, attempts to derail the investigation from within, and arbitrary removal from a probe team of officers deemed uncomfortable. Seeking to help those accused of corruption and delaying the filing of the charge sheet in the Aircel-Maxis case were among the charges levelled against him by the NGO, Centre for Public Interest Litigation. The Bench headed by Chief Justice H.L. Dattu has found the charges ‘ prima facie credible’ but, in the interest of protecting the agency’s reputation it has refrained from pronouncing a detailed order. However, it is now for the government to ascertain the exact magnitude of Mr. Sinha’s misdemeanours and take appropriate disciplinary action.

The conventional narrative that the CBI is a ‘caged parrot’, that is, an institution struggling to assert its autonomy in the face of political pressure, was turned on its head by Mr. Sinha. Under him, there were phases when the agency appeared to be pliant by choice, willing to serve causes other than justice. If at all considerable progress was made in several matters, it was due to judicial monitoring and prodding, the diligence of conscientious investigators and prosecutors, and the vigilance of activists. It was in the fitness of things that the Supreme Court also recalled its earlier order seeking the disclosure of the name of the whistle-blower who brought out details of Mr. Sinha’s residential visitors. It rightly concurred with Anand Grover, Special Public Prosecutor for the 2G case, that once information supplied by someone is deemed credible, there was no need to disclose the informant’s identity. Mr. Sinha’s exit, which will be more propitious if advanced by a few days by his resignation, will provide an opportunity to operationalise recent reforms relating to the CBI Director’s appointment contained in the Lokpal Act. But it cannot be forgotten that law provides but the bare bones for justice, and it is people who give it soul and substance.

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