Go easy on politicians, sensitive investigations, govt tells new CBI chief
George Iype in New Delhi
One day after Joginder Singh was shunted out of the
Central Bureau of Investigation, the brief that R C Sharma, the new
CBI director, received from the United Front government on Tuesday
was clear: Go slow on politicians and soft-peddle
investigations into sensitive cases like the fodder scam and Bofors.
CBI sources said Prime Minister Inder Kumar Gujral
and Minister of State for Personnel S R Balasubramanian held
brief meetings with Sharma and warned him not to rush to the press
with half-baked reports on crucial investigations.
It clearly implied that the publicity-savvy Singh
was sacked because he botched up some wellknown cases, starting
with the Jain hawala scandal, which petered out when the Delhi
high court refused to sanction the prosecution of politicians
like L K Advani, Madhavrao Scindia and Madan Lal Khurana. The
court rejected the CBI evidence saying that it was based solely
on scribbles in the diaries of the Jain brothers.
But what cost Singh his high-profile job was his latest goof-up on the fodder scam -- the special court in Patna refused to take cognisance of the chargesheets filed
against Bihar Chief Minister Laloo Prasad Yadav and 55 others
and ordered the CBI to come up with a proper chargesheet.
However, shifting Singh out of the CBI is seen as a clever
strategy by the prime minister to defuse the crisis
in the Janata Dal over Laloo Yadav's involvement
in the Rs 9.5 billion fodder scam.
Says one senior CBI officer: 'Singh's removal is
part of Gujral's survival tactics. We fear he
will resort to a witch-hunt which he had promised not to pursue
when he took over as prime minister."
Sharma, the official told Rediff On The NeT, will function under
Gujral's direct control and therefore
the pace of investigations into many sensational cases ''will definitely
The Janata Dal leadership, the CBI officer claimed, was particularly
peeved that the ongoing turmoil in the party was created
by Singh. Many JD leaders also suspected that Singh was becoming
a willing ally of former prime minister H D Deve Gowda in overzealously
pursuing the fodder scam case against Laloo Yadav.
Singh, a Karnataka state Indian Police Service officer,
was hand-picked by Deve Gowda to head the CBI soon after
he became prime minister in June 1996.
Deve Gowda is considered one of Laloo Yadav's staunch opponents.
The beleaguered Bihar chief minister, who has refused
to step down despite immense pressure within his party, had
set Singh's removal as a pre-condition for any amicable settlement
to the JD crisis.
Political circles will now keenly watch how Sharma handles the fodder scam and the
Congress president Sitaram Kesri had also mounted
pressure on Gujral to sack Singh from the CBI as the party
was being embarrassed by the agency's probe into the Rs 640 million
Bofors pay-offs case.
In May, Singh leaked the CBI's Bofors report to
the press, much to the embarrassment of the Gujral government.
The report named former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi
as an accused in the Bofors case along
with Italian businessman Ottavio Quattrocchi and ex-Bofors agent Win Chadha and several others.
The late Congress leader was accused of hatching
a conspiracy to cause wilful loss to the exchequer by allowing
Quattrocchi and Chadha to strike the deal with Bofors.
The CBI -- which secured the first set of secret bank documents from Switzerland in January -- is expected to get the second set of secret
papers from the Swiss authorities any time now.
Interestingly, government sources said the prime minister did not consult Home Minister Indrajit Gupta in replacing Singh at the CBI.
Gupta's office received a note from the prime minister's
office on Monday evening, informing him of Singh's promotion to
the home ministry as special secretary.
When the talk of replacing the CBI chief
was doing the rounds, the home minister had
recommended to the prime minister that D R Kartikeyan be elevated to the
post. Kartikeyan -- at present special director in the CBI --
was considered a frontrunner for the post.
But government sources said Gujral ignored Gupta's
recommendation as he wanted to appoint an officer who would not embarrass the UF coalition regime.
Joginder Singh goes on leave