SC order on Ranjit Sinha is a lesson for govt while appointing CBI directors

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CBI Director Ranjit Sinha. Image courtesy PIB

The apex court order directing CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to recuse himself from the 2G investigation does not come as a surprise. It was actually waiting to happen if one remembered developments in the court over the past few months. This is an unprecedented happening. The nearest parallel is the Supreme Court order of 1997 in the Hawala case when the court directed the then CBI director to report directly to the court and not share information with the government. That was more out of suspicion that the government was interfering in the investigation. In the present instance the court seems to have had reservations only over the individual and not the organisation or the government.

The most important question is whether Ranjit Sinha should continue to head the CBI until he retires on 2 December. I wonder whether the government would go as far as asking him to proceed on leave. Basically however it is Sinha’s call. In my view there are no compulsions for him to stay. If he believes he has been wronged he would be better off fighting from outside so that he is not weighed down by the inhibitions that go with public office.

I do not think the Sinha episode would affect the fate of the trial in the 2G case. Proceedings may take a little longer than they would have if the controversy involving Sinha had not occurred. The defence lawyers may not have much to exploit as the trial court would be much more wary in accepting or rejecting any piece of evidence brought before it. I personally feel the new dispensation supervising any further investigation or remainder of the trial would exercise due care to see that there is no reversal of the organization’s earliest stand in the case. What is called for is a high degree of team work between the investigators and the prosecutors. If at any time the CBI feels that a prosecutor is not pulling his weight or is unreasonably violating instructions, it is within its right to remove him. But removing a prosecutor on questionable grounds would be subject to court review. This is the lesson that future directors will keep in mind while handling sensational cases such as 2G.

The Sinha episode highlights also the need to be careful in making future appointments of director. Seniority should not be the only criterion as was in the case of Sinha. An officer’s professional competence and reputation should play a prominent role. I am certain it is not difficult to find an officer with such attributes in finding a successor to Sinha. I am confident no political considerations will also weigh, particularly because the Chief Justice of India or his representative will be involved in the process.

The writer is a former CBI director

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