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SCOI Report: SC’s search continues for right person to probe ex-CBI chief Ranjit Sinha visitors’ diary

In IA 13 of Common Cause vs Union of India, if in the last hearing, the Supreme Court had explored the chances of the Central Vigilance Commissioner probing the Ranjit Sinha visitors diary matter despite Prashant Bhushan’s warning against it, on Monday (7 September), the bench turned full circle, by accepting Prashant Bhushan’s initial proposal of going back to the retired Special Director of the CBI, ML Sharma.

In the last hearing of this case, the bench was almost persuaded by the AG, who suggested that Sharma had made exaggerated demands in terms of emoluments and staff requirements, and therefore, he should be given a chance to explore whether the CVC could be requested to probe it.

Today, the AG apprised the bench about his meeting with the CVC and the latter’s willingness to complete the probe personally. This evoked laughter from Prashant Bhushan, as he had argued that CVC suffered from conflict of interests himself, and therefore, could not be requested to probe it. The AG responded saying this was not a laughing matter, and just because Prashant Bhushan filed a petition against the CVC did not mean the CVC could not be trusted.

According to the AG, the scope of the inquiry is limited by paragraph 46 of the May 14, 2015 order of the court. The AG further said what needed to be probed is how many persons visited Ranjit Sinha’s house (as per the diary entries), record their statements, investigate these cases to find out whether these cases took any sudden turn, after their visits, which could be easily made out. But Sharma, the AG claimed, made unending demands, whereas the CVC has offered to do it personally.

To this, Prashant Bhushan responded saying that there has to be a time-bound inquiry, and the CBI officers should not be drawn to investigate this, and most of the staff assisting Sharma must be from outside.

After listening to both the arguments, the bench finally decided to return to Sharma, and request him to scale down his demands. The bench’s order can be read here.

The AG is expected to get back to the bench about Sharma’s response next Monday, September 14.

The arguments in IA No.35 in the case took an interesting turn with Prashant Bhushan expressing his amazement that the CBI does not deem it necessary to investigate kickbacks revealed by the seized diary and cash recovery because they did not relate to coal block allocations. ‘These are prima facie offences under the PCA, and ought to be investigated by the CBI’, he explained. When the bench wanted to know whether it would not expand the scope of its investigations, as it is not a matter before it, Bhushan said the bench need not monitor it.

When the CBI counsel referred to how the jain hawala diary case collapsed because the court held diary does not have evidentiary value, the bench challenged the CBI to admit it.

Further arguments in IA 35 will continue on September 21.

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