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SC orders probe against Ranjit Sinha for abuse of authority

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SC orders probe against Ranjit Sinha for abuse of authority
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed CBI Director-designate Alok Verma to probe allegations of "prima facie abuse of authority" by the agency's former Director Ranjit Sinha.

Sinha is alleged to have tried to scuttle inquires, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the probe agency in coal scam cases.

Welcoming the decision, the Congress said there should be probe against all those who are guilty.

"We welcome it. There should be probe against all those who are guilty. There should be a Supreme Court-monitored probe. We hope all guilty will be punished," said Congress spokesperson Ajoy Kumar.

Sinha had met the accused and others in the coal scam cases, which were being investigated by the probe agency when he was heading it.

Reposing faith in the "impartiality" of the CBI with its new Director Alok Verma, a bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K. Sikri declined a plea by NGO Common Cause seeking probe by an outside agency.

The court order came after the report of former CBI Special Director M.L. Sharma, who had inquired into the allegations of abuse of authority by Sinha.

Sharma was asked by the top court to hold an inquiry into the meetings that the former CBI Director had with the accused and others in coal scam cases.

Asking the investigating agency to act as a Special Investigation Team (SIT), Justice Lokur pronouncing the judgment said: "In our considered opinion, since there has been a change of guard in the CBI, we would continue to repose our faith in the impartiality of the CBI to look into the report prepared by M.L. Sharma and other relevant documents and conduct an investigation (as an SIT) into the abuse of authority prima facie committed by Ranjit Sinha with a view to scuttle inquires, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the CBI in coal block allocation cases."

Directing investigation into the abuse of authority by Sinha, the court recalled its May 14, 2015 order wherein it had said that "it was completely inappropriate for Sinha to have met persons accused in the coal block allocation cases without the investigating officer being present or without the investigating team being present".

It was by May 14, 2015 order that top court had asked Sharma to inquire into the conduct of Sinha.

Asking the CBI Director to investigate Sinha, the court in its order said that the "Special Investigating Team led by the Director, CBI may take the assistance of two officers of the CBI nominated by the Director with due intimation to this Court".

It further said: "The Director, CBI will also take the Chief Vigilance Commissioner into confidence in respect of the investigations."

Noting that CBI Director would "undoubtedly" require the assistance of somebody "well conversant" with the law, the court requested senior counsel R.S. Cheema, who is a Special Public Prosecutor in the coal block allocation cases, to assist him and his team on legal issues.

Asking the CBI Director to constitute a SIT to be headed by him, the court said it has "not expressed any opinion on the merits of the allegations" made by the petitioner society Common Cause or on the contents of the report submitted by M.L. Sharma and his team except to say that "a prima facie case has definitely been made out for investigation into the abuse of authority by Ranjit Sinha in terms of the report".

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