In spite of arresting and producing Rajendra Kumar, Principal Secretary to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, before the special court with much fanfare on Tuesday – getting his custody for five days – a pertinent question remains, will the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) be able to prove Kumar and his other four associates guilty?
Going by the lack of experience shown by CBI in Kumar’s case since December 2015, and the way the court questioned the arrest made by the country's premier investigative agency, it seems that it would be a tough nut for the CBI to crack.
The court, while ordering a five-day CBI custody remand for Kumar on Tuesday, also asked the agency why it had not arrested Kumar earlier in 2015, and why it had done so now.
Earlier too, the CBI had to eat a humble pie in Rajendra Kumar’s case, as the court, on a few occasions, had rapped the agency for the latter’s “failure and conspicuously ambiguous (approach) in its probe.”
- 15 December 2015: CBI had conducted a series of 14 raids, including the office of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal. The agency had said back then, “the raid wasn't conducted on Arvind Kejriwal's office but it was in the office of Principal Secretary to the CM, Rajendra Kumar, to investigate corruption charges against the latter. The raid has nothing to do with the CM.”
- 20 January 2016: A Special CBI court directed the CBI to return the ‘original documents’ seized by it during the raid at Rajendra Kumar’s office and said, “CBI can’t be clothed with divine powers.”
- 29 January 2016: Special CBI Judge Ajay Kumar said, “CBI has utterly failed to comply with the mandatory CrPC provision in its probe…CBI is unable to show even prima facie that the frozen bank accounts of the firm have any direct links with the commission of alleged crime."
- 4 March 2016: Supreme Court bench of Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Prafulla C Pant issue notice on the Delhi government’s plea to CBI, to hand over the documents to the Delhi government that it had seized during its December raid from Kumar’s office.
- 7 April 2016: Special CBI court Judge Ajay Kumar castigated the CBI for "flouting procedures” with impunity and being "conspicuously ambiguous” in its probe in the graft case against Rajendra Kumar and others. “CBI being premier investigating agency is expected to follow the mandate of law. There is explicit requirement of section 102(3) CrPC that after seizure, CBI has to forthwith report the magistrate concerned regarding the seizure. However in present case CBI flouted this requirement with impunity.”
- 7 April 2016: The court on the same day ordered the defreezing of two bank accounts of a company, M/s Endeavour Systems Pvt Ltd, which was alleged to have received contracts from Kumar, who had purportedly favoured it by abusing his official position. “It is not appropriate that the accounts of the company remain frozen till the conclusion of investigation, particularly when more than three months have already elapsed and there is nothing on record by CBI that by what time they will conclude the investigation.”
- 2 May 2016: Special CBI court Judge Ajay Kumar allowed Rajendra Kumar to take back the cash seized by the agency, but simultaneously rejected the latter’s plea for the return of his laptop and iPad (for forensic lab analysis).
According to a legal expert handling CBI cases, establishing the money trail involved in a corruption case is quite difficult and tricky.
“In majority of the cases of corruption and financial irregularities probed by the CBI, the accused goes unpunished. In such cases, the agency often fails to establish the money trail involved in the corruption. It’s difficult to probe it and unless it’s proved, one can’t be prosecuted and sent behind bars. And, that’s why many government babus, despite doing corruption, get away with it. That’s the irony,” the expert said on conditions of anonymity.
Even in many of the defence procurement related scams – though the cases did make news headlines – the agency failed to nail any of the culprits.
In the infamous 1987 Bofors scam, after 23 years of investigation that started in 1990, the court allowed closure of the case with no conviction.
Similarly, in the 1999 Kargil scam, 1999 Coffingate, 2006 Barak Missile scam or 2012 Tatra Trucks scam — to name just a few — the cases dragged on for years in the courts, with no convictions in the end.
However, in Rajendra Kumar’s case, the CBI is optimistic about its probe. “CBI has prima facie evidences against Rajendra Kumar and it’ll proceed accordingly. Further probe is underway,” a source said.
Meanwhile, as a rule, the Delhi government has suspended Kumar after the court ordered the latter to CBI custody for five days.