Published On: Mon, Dec 9th, 2019

SC expresses reservation on plea of probe agencies seeking permission to repatriate officers

New Delhi: The Supreme Court Monday expressed reservation on the plea of the investigating agencies seeking its permission to repatriate some of the officers involved in the probe of the coal block allocation scam to their parent cadres. “Investigation is going on, how can we allow (your plea),” a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and and Justices B R Gavai and Surya Kant told Solicitor General Tushar Mehta.

Supreme Court today expressed reservation on the plea of the investigating agencies seeking its permission to repatriate some of the officers involved in the probe of the coal block allocation scam to their parent cadres.

Mehta submitted that officers of the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) cannot be transferred without the permission of the apex court which has been monitoring the probe in the coal block allocation scam. He said five officers have completed the tenure of deputation and have made requests citing personal grounds for repatriation to their state cadres.

The bench observed that deputation is not a punishment and the officers can be allowed to go to their parent cadre to resolve their issues if any and come back to the department for completing the assignment. The top court, while deferring the hearing, asked Mehta to resolve the issue and get instructions.

It also took up the plea of senior advocate R S Cheema, who was appointed as special public prosecutor (SPP) for the CBI and the ED to conduct the trial of cases arising from the coal scam seeking to be relieved from the task. The bench asked Cheema and Mehta to give names of advocates who can be considered for appointment as SPP for prosecution of the ED matters and decided to hear it again in January.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, who has appeared for NGO ‘Common Cause’, and on whose petition the allocation of coal blocks were scrapped, drew attention of the court to the probe by SIT against former CBI Director Ranjit Sinha for allegedly botching up the probe. Bhushan said more than two years have passed since former CBI special director M L Sharma submitted his report stating that former agency chief ‘prime facie’ acted for extraneous reasons and till now issue has been kept at back burner.

The bench took note of the submission and posted the matter for further deliberation in February. The top court had earlier sought to know from CBI and ED the status of investigation and trial in the coal block allocation scam cases probed by the two agencies.

The court had said it would take a practical view on repatriation of officers, involved in the investigation of coal scam cases, to their parent departments in a manner that the investigation does not get stalled. On November 27 last year, the top court had asked the SIT to submit the status report on the probe conducted into the charges of “abuse of official position” by Sinha.

The top court had earlier constituted the SIT headed by former CBI special director M L Sharma to look into the prima facie allegations against Sinha for trying to influence the probe in coal scam cases. It had reiterated its earlier order that officers investigating and supervising the coal scam cases shall not be transferred or removed without prior express permission of the court.

The ED had earlier told the court that provisional attachment orders have been issued in more than dozen cases amounting to Rs 600.7 crore. On January 15 last year, the SIT had told the apex court that it would examine the bank account details of persons who had visited Sinha’s official residence.

The SIT, which filed its status report with regard to the investigation in the matter, said “substantial progress” has been made in the probe and its scope has been widened. SPP Cheema had told the court that the SIT was trying to trace the number of vehicles which used to come to Sinha’s official residence.

The top court had in January last year constituted the SIT headed by the CBI director to look into the prima facie allegations against Sinha. It was earlier informed that a panel headed by former CBI special director Sharma had held that Sinha’s alleged meetings with some high-profile accused in the coal scam prima facie indicated that there was an attempt to influence the investigation.

On December 7, 2015, the court had ordered handing over the original visitors’ diary of Sinha’s official residence to the Sharma-led panel.

PTI

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