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CBI chief removed from 2G probe

CBI chief removed from 2G probe
Highlights

CBI chief removed from 2G probe, The top man of India\'s premier investigating agency has been removed by the Supreme Court from an inquiry into one of the country\'s largest financial swindles.

  • ‘Credible info that CBI director has been trying to subvert agency’s probe’
  • SC recalls its earlier order, directs NGO to name the whistleblower
  • DIG-rank officer Rastogi was a “mole” who passed on certain file notings

New Delhi: The top man of India's premier investigating agency has been removed by the Supreme Court from an inquiry into one of the country's largest financial swindles.

The judges ruled that there is "credible" information that CBI director Ranjit Sinha has been trying to subvert his own agency's inquiry on the telecom scandal, dubbed the "2G scam" after the second-generation airwaves involved.

Sinha has been accused by lawyer-activist Prashant Bhushan of trying to protect some of the telecom executives that his agency has charged with criminal conspiracy. As evidence, Bhushan submitted in September a diary of visitors to the CBI chief's home. Regular house calls were made by men who are named as the accused by the CBI.

Sinha said that because his residence includes an office, he met with people who wanted to explain their defense. He denied any wrongdoing or attempt at subterfuge, a claim that has been forcefully rejected by the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court has been monitoring the CBI's investigation since 2010 based on a petition by Bhushan.

The CBI says that in 2008, then Telecom Minister A Raja took large bribes from firms who were given out-of-turn mobile network licenses; second-generation airwaves were attached to the licenses for no extra cost. The entire swindle was worth 1.76 lakh crores according to the national auditor in a report in 2010, igniting a national controversy.

Earlier, The SC ordered officers of CBI to head to work straight away instead of attending a hearing about their top boss, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha.

"How come so many officers are standing here? We don't require so many officers here. Let them not waste time here and go and work in office," said Chief Justice of India HL Dattu.

Government sources sought to point out that as Leaders of the Opposition in both houses, Arun Jaitley and Sushma Swaraj - both union ministers now - had written to Dr Manmohan objecting to the appointment of Ranjit Sinha as CBI chief. "It is time for those who appointed the current CBI director to introspect," sources said.

Between 11 May 2013 and 15 August 2014, Tony Jesudasan and A N Sethuraman of the Anil Ambani Group made 50 visits. Several officials of the Group are charged in the 2G case. Sinha accepted the visits, saying he knew the two men socially.

Another individual under the 2G scanner, Mahendra Nahata, made 70 visits in the same manner. Nahata was probed by the CBI for selling his company, which had acquired a 2 G license, to Videocon. The CBI looked at whether Nahata's firm had functioned as a proxy company for the Videocon, but the case against him was later closed.

Another visitor was Sunil Bajaj, corporate relations head of the Essar Group. In December 2011, CBI charged Essar group promoter Ravi Ruia for not disclosing the extent of equity holding of Essar Group in Loop Telecom Ltd (Loop), which was alleged to be a front company used to acquire additional 2G spectrum. The visits by Bajaj to Sinha's home took place when the case was being heard by the court, which wanted to know why the CBI had not named him as an accused.

However, Sinha's counsel insisted that the allegations levelled against him of scuttling the 2G probe were untrue.

Reacting to the order, Sinha said, "We will abide by the Supreme Court order." He also reportedly said the court's move, which came just twelve days before his retirement, was not an embarrassment to him.

The SC also recalled its earlier order by which it directed the NGO to disclose the name of whistleblower who had provided documents and visitors diary of Sinha's residence.

Sinha had on Wednesday told the court that DIG-rank CBI officer Santosh Rastogi was a “mole” who passed on certain file notings and documents to the NGO on the basis of which baseless and false case was filed against him.

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