Millennium Post

Ranjit Sinha has lot to answer for

Former CBI director Ranjit Sinha won’t forget the month of November 2014 in a hurry. It brought forth the second instance of his professional career, where he was taken off a case, while participating in the investigation. The 1974-batch cadre IPS officer was shifted out of investigations in fodder scam way back in 1996, when he was accused by his own colleague, UN Biswas, of scuttling investigations ostensibly to save Lalu Yadav and other powerful individuals involved. This year it took strictures from the Supreme Court for him to be dissociated from investigations in the 2G scam.

The fact that the apex court decision came just before his retirement poses a huge question mark about Sinha’s entire tenure. While the media would like to remember his stint as one where the apex court ended up describing the premier investigating agency as a caged parrot, the truth is that it became a parrot perhaps because Sinha wanted it to behave like one. Look at the spate of high profile cases handled by Sinha and the end results.

First case on the list involves BJP president Amit Shah and his alleged role in fake encounter cases. It was a unique case where the present BJP president ended up being charge-sheeted in the Ishrat Jehan fake encounter case, only to see Sinha later conclude that there was no prosecutable evidence against him. In subsequent interactions, which he has gone onto deny. Sinha even argued that the UPA would have been happier if he had gone ahead and prosecuted Shah. However, Sinha claimed that the CBI went purely by the evidence on record. Closer scrutiny of court papers and CBI’s own charge sheet filed in Gujarat court suggests that at the time of filing of charge sheet, CBI officers were allegedly convinced of Shah’s involvement.

What else could be the conclusion if the CBI argued that IB station superintendent in Gandhinagar Rajendra Kumar was hand in glove with Gujarat police officers like DG Vanzara and others? After all, at that time  Shah was the junior minister for internal security in Modi-led Gujarat government. Did all the planning and execution take place without Shah’s knowledge, who was the political boss for the Gujarat police machinery? If the Supreme court today has asked Sinha to lay off investigations in 2G scam, are we to believe that maybe the CBI’s conclusion would have been different, had there been a similar plea against Sinha during the filing of fake encounter charge sheet?

Second case on the list is the coal scam. TV channels played up the story of Kumar Mangalam Birla being named in an FIR for getting the Talabira 2 coal mine block. PC Parakh, secretary in the coal ministry responsible for awarding the coal block to KM Birla, was also named by CBI for misuse of his official position. Source based stories were planted in the media about how sums varying from Rs 25 to 35 crores were found in head offices of the Birla group. In course of an interview I did with Parakh after filing of this FIR, he said anyone who found something wrong in awarding of this block was “mad”. In course of an interaction with Ranjit Sinha post this interview, he took strong offense to the language used by Parakh. He tried to argue that it was because of the goodness of his heart, since he was a senior citizen! As far Birla was concerned, Sinha felt the agency had done the right thing by first filing an FIR and later backtracking. We still don’t know which of these two moves were right! That too in a case, which was being personally monitored by the Supreme Court. Are we to assume that here too, the conclusion could have been different if the court had looked at Sinha  closely? Could he be accused of being “motivated” before or after filing of FIR?

Third case on the list is the much hyped railway scam. Former union minister Pawan Bansal was forced to resign after it was found by the CBI that his nephew was allegedly taking money for postings within railway ministry. What’s not known is that Sinha had been the director general of Railway Protection Force for a while, before he was sent packing by Mamata Banerjee, who had replaced Lalu Yadav in Rail Bhawan during the previous government. Senior bureaucrats in railway ministry point out that Sinha harboured deep grudge against some babus in Rail Bhawan, who he suspected were responsible for poisoning Mamata’s mind against him. Was the entire expose a consequence of that grudge? The bottom line is that Ranjit Sinha, like his predecessor AP Singh, leaves the agency under the cloud of a very serious credibility crisis. If the top court of this country is convinced that he shouldn’t be handling one of the most sensitive cases because of evidence which has come into public domain, will we ever know whether evidence exists in similar other high profile cases, which he had handled as well?

Was this just a case of Sinha splitting his entire tenure into three parts? Thanksgiving to his appointing government first, consolidation of his own position second and reaching out to an incoming government towards the end of his tenure? Or should we believe him when he says he has been targeted because he went after the high and mighty! Maybe Sinha may write a book to answer these questions.

The author is a senior journalist and held top positions with NDTV and CNN IBN  
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