Indian anti-corruption agency investigates its former boss

By on 27/04/2017
Ranjit Sinha under investigation for attempting to influence corruption probes during his tenure at the CBI (Image courtesy PTI)

India’s premier federal anti-corruption agency, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has been asked by the Supreme Court to investigate its own former chief – who is suspected of attempting to influence corruption probes during his tenure at the organisation.

Ranjit Sinha is currently on trial at the Supreme Court, and has been indicted by a Special Investigative Team (SIT) on a charge of ‘prima facie’ wrongdoing. Sinha allegedly tried to tamper with CBI investigations into corruption in the 2G and coal blocks allocation scams – a set of scandals that helped bring down the previous ‘United Progressive Alliance’ government, a coalition led by the Indian National Congress that fell in 2014.

Following the SIT report, the Supreme Court made an order in January requesting that the CBI undertake further investigations into Sinha’s role in the ‘Coalgate’ scandal and its aftermath. Sinha argued that the case revealed double standards and should be dropped, citing the Court’s decision not to proceed with prosecutions over the recent ‘Sahara-Birla papers’ case. This case, named after two prominent Indian businesses, centred around alleged payments to several high-profile Indian politicians and functionaries – including Prime Minister Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Both the Sahara-Birla and Sinha investigations have their roots in work by Prashant Bhushan, a well-known lawyer and anti-corruption activist who submitted the results of his own investigations to the Supreme Court. Bhushan told Global Government Forum that he was pleased at the CBI probe into Sinha, but warned of another potential conflict of interest.

The Chief Vigilance Commission, another federal anti-corruption watchdog, also has a role in investigating Sinha; and Bhushan told Global Government Forum that its own current chief, KV Chaudhary, also appears in the evidence he submitted to the Supreme Court. The CVC’s participation in the Sinha case is, he argued, “inappropriate” – particularly because Chaudhary himself was investigated and exonerated of involvement in a tax scam by the CBI under Sinha’s leadership.

“I raised the issue. The [Supreme] Court said let it be for now. Let us see how the trial progresses,” Bhushan told Global Government Forum. But he appears concerned about the central government’s commitment to the case, and has previously suggested that officials have been slow in providing essential information to the Special Investigative Team.

A CBI spokesperson told Global Government Forum that it could not say how long it will take for the agency to wrap up its probe against Sinha.

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See also:

Indian Supreme Court challenges former officials appointed as state governors

Indian budget focuses on digital economy and rural growth

India to roll out cashless food subsidies system

About Abhimanyu Kumar

Abhimanyu Singh is a journalist based in New Delhi, India. He writes on issues related to politics and governance for Indian and foreign media. He was previously with The Hindu and The Sunday Guardian.

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