Former senior police officers on Wednesday by and large welcomed the Supreme Court’s strictures against the government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)in the coal block allocation scam report/affidavit.
Former CBI Director D.R.Karthikeyan said: “The (apex)court has taken a very serious view. The PMO (Prime Ministerâs Office) and the law ministry had access to the report on coal. We should whit till the final verdict of the court.”
“What the CBI did is wrong. The CBI should be liberated. Every country should have an independent agency. This happens in many other countries, and with some (police) reforms it can be done here also,” he added.
Another former CBI Director Joginder Singh said that the Supreme court was absolutely right in telling the CBI not to behave like a “parrot in a cage”, but behave like a “free bird” and do its duty as the countryâs premier investigative agency.
He seemed to suggest that Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi may have also had an opportunity to look at the report, and added that the apex courtâs strictures seemed to be primarily directed at the government rather than the CBI.
“CBI wonât lie. The observation is on the government. Equity and justice should be equal before doing some work. The CBI must be told that this should not happen again,” said Singh.
He also called on the parties involved in the coal block allocation to stop playing the name game.
He refused to comment on the role of Union Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar and Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, as he was not present in their meetings.
“Morality and politics are different things,” Joginder Singh said.
Former senior IPS officer Kiran Bedi agreed with the Supreme Courtâs description of the CBI being a parrot in a cage.
“It is true. They have become a parrot The (apex) court has given them chance. A caged bird after some time fails to understand the freedom. Today, the court has told the CBI again that it is a free bird,” Bedi said.
“The fortune of this country will change the day CBI starts function properly. These massive scams wonât happen,” she added.
Earlier, the apex court was scathingly critical of governmental interference in what was essentially an investigative matter.
The Supreme Court bluntly said that the CBI’s job was to interrogate and not to interact with the government or any of its functionaries, while examining the nine-page fresh affidavit of the CBI that details the changes that it alleged were made by Union Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar and others to a draft of its report on the coal allocation investigation.
The apex court firmly said the government has the right to ask for a status on a particular probe, but has no business to intrude or interfere in an activity being carried out by the CBI. It said the government could notapply external pressure on a probe through its officials.
The CBI on Monday had told the Supreme Court that on March 6 this year, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Coal Ministry officials and officers of the Prime Minister”s Office, made three significant changes to a draft of a report on the agency”s investigation into coal block allocations that it submitted three days later in court.
It said that these changes were made at three different meetings on that day. In one of those, it claims, coal ministry and PMO officials visited the CBI and asked that the investigating agency delete from the report its finding that there was no weightage or points system used when allocating coal blocks.
Then, in a meeting at his office the same day, Kumar made two deletions in the draft report, the CBI has claimed.
Kumar allegedly deleted a portion that found that a screening committee reviewing applications for coal blocks did not prepare charts and reports. The affidavit says Kumar also deleted a sentence in the draft report on the agency”s scope of inquiry on the legality of coal bock allocations.
In yet another meeting on that day, the CBI has said Attorney General GE Vahanvati, representing the Centre in the case, saw the draft and suggested “minor” changes.
CBI Director Ranjit Sinha has emphasised in his report that these changes “neither altered its central theme nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner.”
He had also assured the court that no names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and also that no suspects or accused were let off in the process.
BJP leader Arun Jaitley said on Monday that the three deletions that the CBI has mentioned dilutes the “culpability of the accused”. He also said that the investigating report was shared with the “suspects” which is not “appropriate”.
BJP president Rajnath Singh said Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Kumar should quit on moral grounds.
In a draft report issued in March 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) office accused the government of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner during the period 2004-2009.
Over the Summer of 2012, the BJP lodged a complaint resulting in a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into whether the allocation of the coal blocks was in fact influenced by corruption.
The CAG Final Report tabled in Parliament put the figure at Rs.1855.91 billion (approximately USD 34 billion)
On August 27, 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh read a statement in Parliament rebutting the CAG’s report both in its reading of the law and the alleged cost of the government’s policies.