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CBI chief Ranjit Sinha’s actions raises more questions than answers

Ever since the names of visitors who met CBI director Ranjit Sinha at his home office in the past several months have come into the public domain, the man in question has gone all out to say he has done no wrong and that nobody can stop him from meeting people. In one of his defiant statements, he said, “only a thief can help catch a thief”, implying that he’s been getting information from his visitors, that has enabled CBI to crack many cases.

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That may be partly correct, but Sinha’s argument seems to be faulty. While technically the CBI chief can hold meetings at his residential office, it is the range of people who are listed in the visitors’ diary and the frequency of their visits that is raising questions. Whether the controversial names, including industrialists, company executives and politicians with links to the 2G telecom scam and coalgate, appear in the first, second or the third visitors’ diary at Sinha’s residence is of little consequence. The fact that the top sleuth, who’s heading the probe on both 2G and coal case that shook the nation, met many of the people that he did at his residential complex (even if it is at the home office), at times late in the night, is a clear indicator of things gone amiss.
 

The questions that come to mind are—why could not these same set of people meet the CBI chief at his office? What were the constraints in organizing meetings at his spacious office in the CGO Complex, New Delhi? Was it the convenience of the visitors or the CBI chief himself that was kept in mind while allowing meetings at his residence? Just to put things in perspective, Sinha’s residence at 2, Janpath, is less than 5 km away from the CBI headquarters at the CGO complex, and in normal traffic the two destinations are apart by 10 minutes when travelling by car.     

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We may not get a ready answer to those questions at this point, but a top bureaucrat pointed out that it was unconventional to do so many meetings at the residential office, and that too with controversial people some of whom are linked to cases Sinha’s probing. The CBI chief is right in saying that there’s no evidence to show that he’s been influenced in any of the cases following the meetings. But what about the lingering doubt that will be tough to wipe out from the minds of people who are following this development everyday?                                    
     

The CBI chief is given an office in the residential complex so that he can carry home his work, but not so much for holding meetings, a civil servant said. Personal staff can however be called too to help him with his work at his home office. The division between the private and public must be clear,  and any  overlap should be discouraged, he added. In fact, even ministers are not expected to meet industry representatives or company executives at their residence, though such norms are often broken.     
 

With just about two months to go before his term ends, with the government take any step to intervene? The buzz is that there may be a change in the rulebook that could actually end the CBI chief’s term before the due time. Sinha of course has said, he will not resign, and may also plan a perjury case against Prashant Bhushan, the petitioner who brought the visitors’ log book to the court. But, what view the Supreme Court takes on Monday on the matter may hold the key.       
 

Sinha had not so long ago agreed with the Supreme Court that the agency was indeed a “caged parrot”. The current controversy brings us back to the question of how much of a caged parrot CBI actually is, and what the top representatives can do to change the complexion of the premier investigative agency.

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