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Centre told us to save Mulayam: CBI

Centre told us to save Mulayam: CBI

Author: Abraham Thomas
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: February 11, 2009
URL: http://www.dailypioneer.com/155718/Centre-told-us-to-save-Mulayam-CBI.html

Agency has sold its soul, say legal luminaries

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) acted under the Centre's directive in seeking to bail out Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav in the disproportionate assets case. The CBI's admission in the Supreme Court on Tuesday sent shock waves among legal luminaries, with senior advocate KTS Tulsi even saying the CBI "has sold its soul".

Making the startling disclosure, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Mohan Parasaran said the CBI's plea to withdraw an earlier letter for Mulayam's prosecution was based on the Union Law Ministry's instructions.

The shocking revelation is another low in the disgraceful history of an organisation that has invited regular criticism for being a "puppet" of the Central Government. The CBI's role in Bofors accused Ottavio Quattorocchi's escape and de-freezing of his London accounts, its refusal to challenge RJD chief Lalu Prasad's acquittal in the fodder scam and its flip-flop on corruption cases against BSP supremo Mayawati have earned it a great deal of notoriety.

On October 26, 2007, the agency had filed an application seeking permission to table its investigation report before the Supreme Court. The CBI had then held that there was prima facie evidence to nail Mulayam Singh and his kin in corruption cases. Those were the days when the SP and the Congress were on opposite sides of the political divide.

But after the SP came closer to the UPA and bailed out the Manmohan Singh Government by voting in favour of the confidence motion, the CBI took an about-turn. On December 6, 2008, the agency filed an application to withdraw its earlier request to table charges against Mulayam, which could have led to his prosecution. The agency said it had received representation from Mulayam to reconsider the evidences and cited this reason for the flip-flop.

"We proceeded to take the view of the Law Minister whether to take action on Mulayam's representations. We received opinion from the Law Ministry to withdraw the October 2007 application and file a fresh application dated November 26, 2008, which was filed in the court on December 6. On that opinion, we filed the fresh application," the ASG added.

The CBI's submission stunned the court, forcing the Bench of Justices Altamas Kabir and Cyriac Joseph to remark, "So you were acting at the behest of the Law Ministry. You were not acting independently. What you just now said is something unusual."

Digging deeper, the Bench asked, "Is this the only case where the CBI has followed the practice of referring for opinion to the Law Ministry or has it been resorting to this in the past also?" The ASG replied, "In the past also, we have referred (cases) for their opinion… I have stated the facts as they are."

The Bench sought to know what stopped the agency from approaching the court on considering the representations. It was on March 1, 2007, that the apex court had directed the CBI to investigate into the disproportionate assets of Mulayam, his two sons Akhilesh and Prateek, and daughter-in-law Dimple on a PIL filed by one Vishwanath Chaturvedi. "Why did you go to the Central Government? Why didn't you approach us?" the Bench asked.

It also asked, "When the investigation was completed and you received additional material, does anything stand in way of your examining it?" The ASG replied in the negative. This gave the court sufficient proof to hold the CBI at fault.

Finding itself in a rather sticky position, Solicitor General GE Vahanvati chose to remain neutral. Appearing for the Centre, he clarified, "We don't want to take any decision in this matter. Let the CBI consider the representation and submit report to the court."

The CBI's admission, however, gave sufficient ammunition to petitioner Chaturvedi and Mulayam and his kin to take potshots at the agency's foul play.

Leading the attack was senior advocate Harish Salve, who hinted at the CBI report being replete with errors and falsehoods, such as Rs 1 lakh being shown as Rs 10 lakh and a non-existing hotel valued as an asset of Mulayam. Salve said, "I said it then and I say it now that the CBI is not to be trusted with investigations in this case."

Referring to the CBI report available in the public domain, a fact that attracted shock and anguish from the court, Salve blamed the CBI for "select leak" of the report designed to tarnish his client's image. Offering to get the Augean stables cleaned for once, Salve offered to be probed by a judicial authority in place of the CBI.

Amused by this suggestion, the Bench remarked, "It was Hercules who cleaned the Augean stables. Where do you get a Hercules?" The concern of the Bench resonated in the arguments of senior advocate KTS Tulsi, who appeared for Chaturvedi. Referring to a catena of Supreme Court decisions and the CBI manual, Tulsi suggested that the apex court since the 1991 Veeraswamy case was concerned to preserve the CBI's independence.

Quoting the CBI manual, which requires the preliminary inquiry report in court-directed cases to be deposited with the court, Tulsi added, "It is not that the CBI does not know the law. It only shows that CBI has sold its soul."

The counsels appearing for Mulayam's kin demanded that the CBI's application ought to be decided along with the review petitions being heard by the court filed by them. Salve raised the plank that his client was a victim of political vendetta at the behest of the petitioner, who was a "professed" Congress activist. In this regard, he referred to a taped conversation of Chaturvedi where he bared out his vested interest by showing the judiciary in poor light. On his part, Chaturvedi's counsel requested the court to provide security to his client in the wake of the threats received.

The court allowed Salve to file additional material in the form of CDs and related affidavit. Posting the matter for March 31, it left open the question whether the hearing pertaining to the taped conversation should be held in camera. The Bench directed the UP Government to ensure security to Chaturvedi as requested by him.

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