Interim CBI director's decision to not reopen corruption cases against I-T officials causes confusion in agency ranks
The case under the scanner dates back to 2016, when the agency registered an FIR against nine Income Tax officials and private persons, including chartered accountant Sanjay Bhandari
New Delhi: Interim CBI director M Nageswar Rao's decision to shoot down suspended chief Alok Verma's "proposal" to reopen a case he previously closed has triggered a massive debate among the investigating agency's ranks. Moreover, the various interpretations of Rao’s decision in the backdrop of a Supreme Court order directing him not to take any major policy decisions has caused much confusion. The debate is centered on two issues: Whether reopening a case already closed by Verma is tantamount to a major policy decision or an endorsement of the previous order.
The case under the scanner dates back to 2016, when the agency registered an FIR against nine Income Tax officials and private persons, including chartered accountant Sanjay Bhandari. The case dragged on for two years. On 13 March, 2018, a decision was taken by the agency to close the FIR after approval of Director Alok Verma. However, two months later, Verma during a trip to Madurai "orally" conveyed to Rao a proposal to reopen the Bhandari case. This is where the confusion arose.
Since Verma already ordered closure of the case in March, and only verbally mentioned about the reopening the case in June, which decision would be taken on the record while determining the fate of the case? Which is why the CBI's Chennai unit sought direction from the head office. According to a senior agency official, while the file was already closed by Verma on 13 March, 2018, it had still not been determined what was to be done about the oral observation in June.
“There was only mention about the oral observation on the file and no final decision was taken by the agency. The file noting of 13 March, 2018, suggests the case is being closed after instructions from competent authority, which in this case is CBI director. When Chennai unit sought direction, it was turned down in the wake of Supreme Court order asking him not to take any policy decision,” the senior official said.
On the other hand, some officials believe it is not a matter of any policy decision or taking a major decision regarding a corruption case. “Rather, it is about following the decision already taken by Verma in March 2018. The interim chief already mentioned it when deciding on the Chennai unit's request,” the official added.
But what of Verma’s oral request to reopen the case in June? Sources said this is a grey area because no developments in the case occurred in the four months that lapsed and perhaps a decision should be taken by the agency after the hearing in the Supreme Court on 29 November. “Since there is a confusion on policy decision, file noting and subsequent verbal instruction, the unit may need to assess whether they have fresh evidence and it is a fit case for further probe and file another request. If there is new evidence and materials against accused, competent authority should definitely proceed in the case,” sources said.
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