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Another case Sinha should recuse himself from

The infamous Niira Radia tapes, leaked almost five years earlier, exposed the unholy nexus of politicians, media professionals and corporate lobbyists that manipulated policy decisions and cabinet postings. Last week, in a similar explosive revelation, DNA, the Mumbai-based daily, put out a list of corporate executives who frequently met the chief of the country’s premier investigative agency.

Ranjit Sinha, director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), has since tied himself in knots, first denying such meetings, then saying some entries were genuine, to asking what was wrong with such meetings.

Subsequent reports have brought out names of other high-profile visitors that Sinha hosted at his 2, Janpath, home office.

One was a promoter of a company involved in the coal blocks allocation scam. Another was a corporate lobbyist turned businessman and there were even some ministers.

While the Supreme Court will decide on whether he should sit out of the 2G telecom spectrum case, requests have gone to the prime minister to get a new chief for what the SC had earlier termed a ‘caged parrot’.

One other important case, where the entry register revelations call for intervention, is the criminal case filed against some officials of the Securities and Exchange Board of India (Sebi). Six months earlier, CBI registered a preliminary enquiry against former Sebi chairman C B Bhave and ex-wholetime member K M Abraham for alleged irregularities in granting a licence to the Jignesh Shah-promoted MCX Stock Exchange.

Several eminent people had slammed the agency’s move soon after it found its way to the media, for selectively picking Bhave and Abraham who gave MCX-SX permission for currency trading, when the equities licence was given under current chairman U K Sinha. A PTI report dated May 18 said CBI was planning to quiz Sinha in this matter. On May 22, it was reported by PTI that CBI had examined the Sebi chief at Mumbai.

Days before the entry register expose, the agency recommended departmental action against Bhave and Abraham but registered a cheating and conspiracy case against a team of officials which assisted the duo in the MCX-SX matter at Sebi. There was no mention about the incumbent Sebi chief.

Now, the CBI chief has told the media that he used to meet people who were aggrieved by the actions of his subordinates. Bhave and Abraham have made no bones about their anger over the CBI action but their names do not figure in the entry register. The CBI chief met officials of a corporate group which was levied the highest penalty under Bhave.

Also, The Times of India report dated September 5, titled ‘Both famous and infamous came calling’, said the CBI chief met the current Sebi chief, quoting the entry register. Under normal circumstances, the meeting of two fellow Bihar cadre officers who have risen up the ranks over three decades should not raise eyebrows.

But, given the history of the relationship between the Sebi chief and Abraham (both have traded serious charges on matters including MCX-SX and some other companies whose officials the CBI chief met), the 2, Janpath meeting loses its innocuousness. It is in national interest and in the interest of the victims of Shah’s enterprises that the case is handed over to a person who doesn’t meet people at home.

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