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Many good reasons why ex-CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s 2G meetings must warrant a criminal investigation against him and his secret visitors

KV Dhananjay: Start criminal investigations against ex CBI chief
KV Dhananjay: Start criminal investigations against ex CBI chief
Supreme Court advocate KV Dhananjay argues that the former CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s clandestine meetings with the accused in the 2G and Coal scam cases were illegal unless he could show that they were meant to further the investigation by the CBI.

He argues that it is very much necessary to vindicate the ‘rule of law’ by immediately subjecting Ranjit Sinha and his visitors to a criminal investigation to determine if those clandestine meetings had the effect of letting off any of the accused, diluting or watering down the charges against any of the accused, influencing or misdirecting the investigation in any other manner or if it resulted in undue and illegal enrichment by any public servant in the process.

‘Rule of law’ doesn’t matter in India?

If it were any other country that would take the ‘rule of law’ seriously enough, Mr Ranjit Sinha and his visitors would have become the subject of a criminal investigation had only a person of his job description in that country suffered the accusations that he is facing in this country.

The necessary assumption – the allegations against Mr Ranjit Sinha are ‘true’ or ‘substantially true’:

To begin with, I have to make an assumption here – that the allegation that during his tenure as the director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (‘CBI’, for short), Mr Ranjit Sinha had secretly, clandestinely and without accounting to the CBI or to the investigating officers, held several meetings with the accused in the 2G and Coal scam cases that were being investigated and prosecuted by the CBI is ‘true’ or ‘substantially true’. It would be reasonable to make such an assumption in the specific facts and circumstances of this case.

All those clandestine meetings were simply illegal if Mr Sinha does not satisfactorily show that they were only aimed at furthering the investigation. He had zero privacy over a matter of his public duty:

We know that the 2G and Coal scam investigations and prosecution by the CBI are happening on the direction of the Supreme Court of India. Irrespective of how or why these two cases were being investigated by the CBI, Mr Sinha should not have met the accused in these cases clandestinely or in an unaccounted manner in his residence.

His meetings with those accused have no legality in them unless they were solely meant to further the investigation by his employer. It is for Mr Sinha to justify the relevance and lawfulness of those meetings to the discharge of his public duties. The reports in the media on the identity of his guests and the frequency of those meetings are rather, very disturbing and paint a picture of sheer lawlessness in the working of the CBI director.

Did Mr Sinha breach any statute or code-of-conduct thereby? Stupid!

Now, is there any statute that forbids such clandestine meetings from taking place? Stupid! Is there any statute that says that a ‘judge should not act as a judge in his own case’?

Obviously, there is none and there is really no need for any such statute as only a complete idiot would argue that an absence of such a statute is enough permission for a judge to do as he pleases.

The tenet that ‘no man shall be a judge in his own case’ is so fundamentally ingrained into the ‘rule of law’ and to the business of justice that it need not be searched for in any statute as it pervades the very essence of a judicial adjudication and process.

Similarly, when Mr Ranjit Sinha went on to clandestinely and secretly entertain all those scam accused in his residence, he clearly committed a grave violation of his service oath and conduct.

It really is a shame that he was not immediately suspended from his service at that very moment when he failed to deny the happenstance of the alleged meetings.

A criminal investigation is squarely warranted against Mr Sinha and his secret guests:

A criminal investigation is squarely warranted against Mr Sinha to determine whether those meetings had the effect of letting off or watering down the charges against any of the accused in the investigations that were his legal responsibility.

Why did Mr Sinha not disclose the fact of such meetings to the CBI and why did he not recuse himself from investigating his ‘so called friends’?

If any of his visitors were his friends even prior to the commencement of the investigations, Mr Ranjit Sinha should have disclosed that fact to his employer and should have asked it to entrust the investigation or prosecution in relation to such persons to different persons who would not report to him.

Alternatively, if Mr Ranjit Sinha would claim that almost all of the accused visitors were his personal friends, he then had no business to pretend or claim in the very first place that he was somehow investigating them and he should have simply recused from the very investigation if his friends’ alleged wrongdoing was a substantial part of the 2G or the Coal scam investigations.

After all, he is not the CBI itself or indispensable to its functioning. He happened to be its employee and was under a legal and public duty to discharge in trust for his employer.

The fact that he neither disclosed to his employer that he was repeatedly entertaining those very accused nor asked his employer to relieve him from investigating his own so-called friends who were visiting him is what had warranted his immediate suspension from employment and is also what readily warrants now, a criminal investigation against him and his visitors.

What if the accused-visitors had held expectations about being shielded by Mr Sinha?

Ok. If some of Mr Sinha’s visitors had truly trusted him to illegally shield them from the Supreme Court mandated investigation and prosecution even though Mr Sinha had never intended at all to illegally shield them as such, why would he keep meeting those very accused secretly in his residence and that too, so often?

He could have simply asked them to not visit him or decline an audience to them. It is not as if his residence is in the center of some fish market that all and sundry could casually sneak into it.

Irrespective of what Mr Sinha claims – that those visits had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with a scheme to shield them - law enforcement is entitled to readily probe Mr Sinha and ask him

  • why he would claim that those visitors were his pre-existing friends,
  • when did that friendship develop between them,
  • what was the nature of that friendship,
  • how often did those friends meet with him prior to the investigations and how often do they meet him after the meetings became public knowledge,
  • what was the general nature of those conversations so as to account for the time actually logged in,
  • what kind of friendship was it in some cases so as to explain a frequency of several dozen meetings in a relatively short period and that too while both parties might have been on official work on those days and were not even on leisure or on holidays?
  • More importantly, how often did those so-called friends meet with Mr Sinha before he became the director of the CBI?
  • Or, if they were perfect strangers earlier, on what basis does Mr Sinha claim that a perfect stranger who happened to be an accused in a CBI investigation decided to quickly befriend for comfort, a person no less than the CBI director himself of all people in the world?
  • And, to exhibit that friendship not openly but only in secret meetings in the director’s residence?

Mr Sinha has in fact, gone on record to claim that he was meeting with those accused to learn about wrongdoing by others. If so, he should be able to readily explain his contribution to the investigation or prosecution from the secret meetings he had held with those accused and the other investigating officers must be in a position to corroborate Mr Sinha’s claim of the investigation being helped by such secret conversations with his visitors at his residence.

The national significance of the issues involved:

I do not think that people would have bothered to take note of Mr Sinha’s wrongdoing if not for two nationally significant aspects – the previous directors of the CBI themselves have come down heavily on Mr Sinha for his lawlessness and have thereby indicated that the CBI directorship is not inextricably connected to such lawlessness and that would give people, the motivation to take steps to restore the position of the CBI directorship to one of probity and accountability.

The other aspect is that the 2G and Coal scam investigations were unlike any other criminal investigation that was undertaken by the CBI as scarce national resources, the utilization of which was determinative of national progress had been squandered amongst the undeserving and corrupt through an elaborate criminal conspiracy to an extent as to not merely shock the conscience of the highest court of this country but to also shock the collective conscience of the people of the nation.

Absurd responses by Mr Sinha don’t seem to have any takers:

It is entirely possible that there is hardly anybody foolish enough in this country to buy the several theories that Mr Sinha has waxed in the days after those meetings became public knowledge.

Finally, a national credit is fully due to Mr Prashant Bhushan for this gallant expose. As to the argument of Mr Sinha holding some kind of privacy over his secret and clandestine meetings with the very accused who were being investigated by his employer and which investigation was his own legal responsibility, we could easily confer the distinction of being the ‘most amusing or absurd argument of the year’.

Mr Sinha has severely breached the trust that had been reposed in him by no less than the Supreme Court of India and it is for the Supreme Court now to address such an affront to its own authority:

It is quite obvious that Mr Ranjit Sinha has gravely abused and wantonly breached the very trust that had been reposed in him by no less than the Supreme Court of India.

One would expect the Supreme Court to direct a criminal investigation against him and his visitors without any delay and to preserve its own authority over those it empowers should they breach the very trust that is reposed in them and abuse their authority in the unlawful manner that Mr Ranjit Sinha has indeed done.

There can be no good reason for the Supreme Court to suffer such grave breach of its own trust and affront to its authority and to not remedy it through a criminal investigation and punishment.

The Central Government need not remain a mute spectator to all this wrongdoing by its own employees in a court case:

Should the Supreme Court not be willing to direct a criminal investigation over this incident, the Government of India should intervene and direct a criminal investigation against this episode.

Mr Ranjit Sinha and his accused visitors should become the subject of a criminal investigation to determine whether those meetings had the effect of letting off any of the accused, misdirecting the investigation, watering down the charges against any accused or influencing the investigators or has led to any illegal enrichment of any public servant even in the absence of positive proof of wrongdoing.

The next course of action:

There is enough number of statutory provisions in our criminal statutes to warrant and sustain such a criminal investigation. Should such an investigation return a finding in the positive on any of aspects probed thereby, the accused should be prosecuted concurrently in the ongoing 2G or Coal scam trial or be tried separately. Even if such a criminal investigation would return no evidence of any wrongdoing, Mr Ranjit Sinha has clearly invited a disciplinary proceeding against him for gross service misconduct.

A lesson must clearly go out for the future:

Mr Sinha and those who are in the business of investigating serious crimes certainly deserve a basic public lesson or two on how to not conduct an investigation into serious crimes and how to not misdirect a criminal investigation.

Yes. It is a very reasonable thing to conclude this piece by raising the strong possibility that Mr Sinha has indeed misdirected the criminal investigation in those two cases and a fair, impartial and a fearless investigation of his clandestine meetings is reasonably bound to uncover it all and to throw up a fresh supply of culprits in the 2G and the Coal scam criminal investigations and trials.

KV Dhananjay is an advocate of the Supreme Court of India

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