India got Independence in 1947, almost seven decades back. But barely have we been able to make use of our independent rights. One of the major and probably the most important obstacle in the path of growth and prosperity of the nation was and is, corruption! Several incidents of corruption that rocked the political administration took place, some were sensational and others evoked great curiosity and one person who was prevue to all such cases was Shantonu Sen, CBI’s former joint director.
Sen, through his latest book, CBI Insider Speaks, reveals some never told facts about these cases and takes us on a journey revealing some unknown facets about them and explains us on how India’s federal investigative agency, the CBI, has always become the subject of scrutiny.
Excerpts from the book:
BIG MONEY: The Birlas and their last laugh
In the late 60s, a name as respected as the Birlas was investigated. This is a tale of investigation and prosecution by the CBI that never saw the light of the day. “It is an affront. This is entirely unexpected.” B K Birla, the third son of the great “GD” looked pained; his aide, R C Maheshwari, furious and Suresh Chandra Roy, acutely embarrassed. I had made the remark in 1975, in Calcutta, at the New Road, Alipore, residence of Roy. The angry retort of an idealistic officer, no more than 10 years with the Central Bureau of Investigation.
The Birla Textile Group was an empire that had steadily grown under the patriarch, GD. It had factories in Delhi, Gwalior, Ahmedabad, Calcutta, Bombay and Bhiwani with a liaison office in Bombay.
The seeds of this episode lay in 1967. I had completed brief stints at Calcutta and Lucknow and had just received a Delhi posting when I came across this interesting case of the Bureau alleging a conspiracy, involving all Birla Textile operations, to breach textile laws for a massive evasion of excise duty”:
All factories, offices, liaison offices of the company were simultaneously searched on the basis of these allegations reproduced on a first information report dated June 13, 1967. I had arrived in Delhi in September 1967 and was assigned to the CBI team investigating the case.
Urea Stinks; so does the Cover-Up
The urea scam surfaced in the last days of the Narasimha Rao government, around October 1995. The not so happy denouement is that at least three senior members of the dramatis personae have managed to elude trial. This is by no means to suggest that they were guilty. This is only to point out that they were not even brought to trial.
The three were Prabhakar Rao, son of the former Prime Minister, Narasimha Rao, Surendra Singh, Cabinet Secretary, the man who chaired the group of secretaries that decided that National Fertiliser Limited would be an additional canalising agency to purchase urea from the international market and the late A N Verma, the Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister who to all intents and purposes was supporting the entry of NFL - that saw itself fall into the trap of doing business with Karson Danismanlik Turizm Sanayi Ticaret Ltd of Turkey and ending up a victim of a Rs 133-crore fraud.
This is not to conclude that their intent was malafide. It is to emphasise the fact that their role in inducting NFL into the urea import business deserved a legal scrutiny that did not happen.
Catching the Vaidya Killers
The battle for the Golden Temple was not quite over - never mind, that the militants had been flushed out. Those that survived bid their time to reorganise. One primary mission was to take the life of General A S Vaidya, which they successfully did. I was asked to handle the case on August 16, 1986. If the investigation into the role of the militants and non-militants at the Golden Temple complex was confronted by interference, the investigation into the assassination of General Vaidya presented an even more difficult obstacle that, indeed, found me at the receiving end of the investigation.
Shuttlecock Investigation Syed Modi Murder Case
Among the most fascinating cases of political interference, changing the course of law was the Syed Modi murder case in Lucknow, in the winter of 1988. The celebrated badminton player had been done to death and, the friendship of his wife, Ameeta Modi and Sanjay Singh was a matter of public knowledge. Not that such friendship should automatically lead to murderous motivation, but the case aroused intense political interest. The CBI suspected, on the basis of sound evidence, involvement of Sanjay Singh, of the then Jan Morcha, and arrested him. The suspicions were further supported by revelations following the arrest of Akhilesh Singh.
Truth of Hawala Scam
The Hawala case is a story of calculated interference. Consider the facts: The Hawala diaries were chanced upon during a search and raid operation by the CBI, under Deputy Inspector General, CBI, Mr OP Sharma, on May 3, 1991. Mr D P Singh, DSP, in the CBI’s terrorist cell recovered the diaries from the house of one Jainender Jain in Saket. Jainender was an employee of Surender Jain, and the case under investigation was under the Terrorist and Disruptive Act.
On June 16, the CBI’s OP Sharma was trapped by the CBI receiving Rs 10 lakhs, allegedly the last instalment of bribe money for not arresting Surender Jain under TADA, which brooks to bail.
The last chapter relates to the 21st Century. Sen served for a little over six years with Lt. Governor-Delhi from April 2007 to July 2013 as his Officer on Special Duty (OSD) with Delhi Government’s home Department Reporting to the Lt. Governor Delhi through him.
The events in this chapter are fresh in many Peoples’ minds. He talks of Bullet Point Control of the Delhi Police; Explains what the LG Delhi Listening Post was; revels how the Anti Corruption Branch (ABC) of the government of NCT of Delhi was defanged when Sheila Dikshit was the Chief Minister and throws light on why the Commonwealth Games (CWG) Village nearly failed to be ready on time and how a decision timely taken by LG Delhi constituted board prevented this. It also talks on how
someone in the PMO ensured a CBI enquiry on this decision, targeting the LG Delhi.
All this leads to the final chapter where Sen raises some serious concerns on the autonomy for the Central Bureau of investigation. He says: “It is only when the CBI officers function uninfluenced by the temptations of sinecures and gubernational posts the ignominious appellations like caged parrots, Congress Bureau of Investigation, Corrupt Bureau of Investigation etc. for CBI could end. Demand of autonomy to CBI to ensure investigation free from influence, is just a red herring”.
Compiled by Neha Jain Kale