The director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) allegedly had private meetings at home with businessmen and politicians who were being investigated by his agency, on several occasions, sometimes late at night. When this was first revealed, the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha claimed there was “mischief” against him and tried to gag the media from reporting the matter. Fortunately the Supreme Court declined his gag request. Sinha also claimed that he had no knowledge of the entry logs kept at his residence. That makes him look incompetent, along with the growing allegations of impropriety.
The Indian Express has reportedly scrutinised logbooks maintained at the gate of Sinha’s 2 Janpath residence for a period of 15 months, from May 2013 to August 2014. These show that meetings took place at all times, from the early morning to late at night.
The Indian Express has listed several individuals whose visits to the CBI director’s residence raise questions of an alleged conflict of interest:
Mahendra Nahata: 71 visits. His name appears on the first day for which the guest log is available – May 2, 2013. His last visit to Sinha’s residence was on August 2, 2014, a few days before the logs end.
Nahata, the promoter of HFCL and co-promoter of Datacom, was questioned by the CBI in connection with the 2G spectrum scam in 2011, but no chargesheet was filed against either the companies or their promoters.
Reached for a comment, Nahata told The Indian Express, “I am a family friend of Mr Sinha’s and have known him for two decades. I have met him a few times as a friend, but I don’t know where this 71 figure is coming from. As a friend, I will continue to meet him.”
Deepak Talwar: 54 visits. The frequency of meetings increased in 2013 when the CBI was pursuing a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) against him. The agency eventually closed this enquiry.
Congress MP Vijay Dadra and his son Devendra Dadra: the logbooks suggest that Dadra senior dropped by on one occasion, while his son visited on six occasions.
Both men were named as accused in the chargesheet filed by the CBI in the coal block allocation case on March 27, 2014. Then in April the CBI is understood to have recommended closure of at least two coal cases involving the Dadras.
According to the reporters, Darda, Talwar and Qureshi were not available for a comment.
There are also several cryptic entries in the logbooks, such as “1 lady”, “advocateji”, “Qureshi + 2”, and “Guptaji”.
What is not clear yet is who precisely in Sinha’s security detail actually maintained these logbooks, and how these reached Prashant Bhushan, the petitioner in the 2G case who raised the matter before the Supreme Court.
“I did not even know that such a register was being maintained,” Sinha claimed.
Interestingly, while Sinha has described his home as a busy residential office, very few officials from the country’s premier investigative agency actually visited. There is reportedly no evidence in the logbooks to suggest that the CBI director called his own officers to his residence for a meeting.
Sinha has not denied that he met these individuals at home. However, he has disputed the frequency of the visits.
He told The Indian Express, “The veracity and authenticity of the registers has to be established and all this is an invasion of my privacy. Yes, people like Deepak Talwar and Devendra Darda did come to my residence, but so what? If people want me to hear their side of the story, should I refuse to meet them?”
With growing calls for Sinha to recuse himself from his agency’s ongoing investigation into the 2G and coal allocations scams, the government is also considering modifying the law to allow a CBI director to be fired on the grounds of proven misbehaviour. Currently there is no way to remove the CBI director, who is appointed for a fixed two-year term.