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Supreme Court trapped the trapper

[dropcap]B[/dropcap]randed to be the most corrupt and compromised, former CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha finds himself in trouble once again after his retirement. He himself will be the focus of an enquiry to ascertain whether he misused his power, said Supreme Court. Sinha, as CBI chief, met at his home with several of the suspects accused of corruption and bribe-giving in the allocation of coal fields to private firms. The swindle, dubbed Coal-Gate, was executed when Dr. Manmohan Singh was the Prime Minister. It is the new CBI chief, Alok Verma, who will be in charge of the investigation against Sinha. The examination will determine if Sinha worked to impede his agency’s case against the people whom he met privately as often as “50-60 times”, according to earlier updates provided to the Supreme Court.  Judges had last year accepted as authentic a visitors’ book from Sinha’s home furnished as evidence of inappropriate appointments in 2014 with those under investigation for serious criminal charges.

In 2012, the national auditor said that the process of allotting coal fields without transparency and at depressed prices, the country had lost up to Rs. 1.86 lakh crores or about 33 billion dollars. The Supreme Court in 2014 said the allocations of coal mining rights over a decade stood cancelled. Then Prime Minister Manomhan Singh has not been charged with any crime, but has been investigated for criminal breach of trust and conspiracy in the allocation of a coal field in 2005 to Hindalco Industries, part of the $40 billion Aditya Birla Group, which has denied that it manipulated the government and its processes. The Supreme Court on Monday constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT), to be headed by the CBI Director, to look into the prima facie allegations against former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha of trying to influence the probe in the coal scam cases.

The apex court had on July 12 last year reserved the order on the issue after Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi told the Bench that the panel headed by former CBI Special Director M.L. Sharma has held that Sinha’s meetings with some high-profile accused in the scam, prima facie indicated that there was an attempt to influence the investigation. On December 7, 2015, the court had ordered handing over the original visitors’ diary of the official residence of the former CBI Director to the Sharma-led panel.

Ranjit Sinha earlier dealt with communal conflict, law and order issues and crime related to international border while posted as a superintendent of police in Ranchi, Madhubani and Saharsa districts in the early part of his career. He was also involved in counter terror operations as the Inspector General (Operations) in the Kashmir Valley when the bus service between India and Pakistan was started in 2005, and the additional director-general of the Indo-Tibetan Border Force. He worked as the Director General of the Railway Protection Force from November 14, 2008 to May 19, 2011, where he raised commando units, bomb disposal squads, quick reaction teams to protect railway stations from terror strikes after the 2008 Mumbai attacks. After having served as the heads of the Railway Protection Force and the ITBP, he was selected as the Director CBI in November 2012. He had earlier served in the CBI for 11 years before being appointed its Director. He took over as Director CBI from his batchmate, who was junior to him in seniority.

Then Prime Minister of India chose Ranjit Sinha as the CBI chief over Sharad Sinha, the Director, National Investigation Agency and Atul, Director General, Uttar Pradesh who were recommended by the Central Vigilance Commission as he was senior to the other two. However, the Bhartiya Janata Party objected to his appointment, protesting that the Government had not followed the collegium system that it had approved and that was part of the Lokpal Bill which was waiting to be passed by the Parliament. The Director General of Delhi Police, Neeraj Kumar, who had brilliantly cracked important cases during his 9 years in the CBI, went to court against the non-inclusion of his name in the panel prepared by the CVC, but later withdrew his case.

In 1996, as a DIG in the CBI under the Joint Director (East), UN Biswas, Sinha was accused of scuttling the investigation to help protect the accused, Lalu Prasad Yadav in the Fodder Scam case. UN Biswas was the chief investigator into the case, whose progress was being monitored by the Patna High Court, and was asked by the court to file a report on the case. The original harsh report by Biswas was swapped with a toned down one authored by Sinha by the then Director CBI, Joginder Singh and submitted to the court. When the court asked why the submitted report did not carry details of the original charges, Biswas admitted before the court that the report had been changed by the CBI Director and that the original report was more damaging. The court indicted the CBI and ordered that Sinha be removed from the case. Later, Sinha, Biswas and other CBI officers apologized to the Privilege Committee Council of the Bihar Legislative Assembly, which decided to drop a privilege proceeding against them for lodging a complaint against them to the High Court. Earlier, his father-in-law as the Director General Vigilance was accused of scuttling initial investigations into the Fodder Scam but the accusations could not be substantiated. Sinha was then posted to Bihar Bhawan in New Delhi against a specially created post by Lalu Yadav. After taking over as the CBI Director, he transferred out four crucial officers investigating the Fodder Scam after obtaining consent of the Jharkhand High Court, but the orders were later cancelled by the Supreme Court of India following filing of a PIL.

As the head of the Railway Protection Force (RPF), Sinha objected to Mamata Banerjee continuing to be provided protection by the RPF commandos, even after she quit as the Railway Ministry and became the Chief Minister of West Bengal. Banerjee did not take to these objections kindly and got Sinha replaced as the RPF head in May 2011.

In April 2013, on the behest of the Supreme Court of India, as the CBI director, he submitted an affidavit stating that the draft investigative report on the Indian coal allocation scam was vetted by the Law Minister Ashwani Kumar before it was submitted to the court. There was widespread outrage in India on this issue as it undermined the autonomy of the CBI. Observing this, the Supreme Court scathingly criticized the UPA government, for its meddling with the report, and the CBI, for behaving like ‘a caged parrot that speaks in its master’s voice’. Sinha has confirmed the comments of the Supreme Court as being correct. As a fallout, Ashwani Kumar was sacked as the Law Minister. On May 6, 2013, the Supreme Court asked the government to bring a law before July 10, 2013 to insulate the CBI from external influence and intrusion. Hurriedly, the government set up a Group of Ministers (GoM) under the then Finance Minister P. Chidambaram to work on the details for implementing the court’s order. In 2013, the CBI busted a cash-for-posts scandal in the Indian Railways that led to the resignation of Pawan Kumar Bansal. However, it was also reported that Sinha had held a grudge against Mahesh Kumar, and ordered his phone to be tapped that led to the case being busted.

Sinha is seen to be close to Lalu Prasad Yadav, the Rashtriya Janata Dal supremo, who kept the post of the Director General of the Railway Protection Force unfilled for three months till Sinha was appointed to the post. He also accepted that he is friends with Yadav, stating that Lalu was his boss both in the state of Bihar and the Indian Railways and hence, they have good interpersonal relations. Sinha has landed himself in scandals, time and again, but always managed to escape the scanner. Now, he is trapped. Let’s see, who will bell this fat cat.

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Dr Vaidehi Taman
Dr Vaidehi an Accredited Journalist from Maharashtra is bestowed with Honourary Doctorate in Journalism, Investigative Journalist, Editor, Ethical Hacker, Philanthropist, and Author. She is Editor-in-Chief of Newsmakers Broadcasting and Communications Pvt. Ltd. for 11 years, which features an English daily tabloid – Afternoon Voice, a Marathi web portal – Mumbai Manoos, monthly magazines like Hackers5, Beyond The News (international) and Maritime Bridges. She is also an EC Council Certified Ethical Hacker, Certified Security Analyst and is also a Licensed Penetration Tester which caters to her freelance jobs.

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