CBI files charge sheet in probe linked to its ex-chief Ranjit Sinha

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a charge sheet in its 2017 probe pertaining to allegations that its former director Ranjit Sinha, while heading the agency, met some of the accused in a United Progressive Alliance-era coal block allocation case, aiming to “scuttle” or “influence” the cases, people familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

Sinha died in April 2021 due to Covid-19 related complications and the charges against him have been abated. However, a legal officer of CBI and some individuals, who were beneficiaries in the improper allocation of coal blocks and allegedly met Sinha, have been named in the charge sheet said one person familiar with the case, who asked not to be named.

“The charge sheet has been filed against an additional legal advisor (ALA) and some beneficiaries ,” added this person, a CBI officer.

CBI refused to divulge names of those accused in the charge sheet, filed this week in a special court in Delhi.

Sinha, who headed the agency from 2012 to 2014, was named an accused in the CBI First Information Report (FIR), filed on April 24, 2017, to probe allegations of “scuttling” and “influencing” probe into the coal block allocation cases by meeting the accused.

Allegations against the former Indian Police Service (IPS) officer surfaced when a ‘visitors’ diary revealed that Sinha “privately” met some of the high profile accused at his official residence in Delhi several times.

Following a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report in 2012, which stated that there was a loss of 1.86 lakh crore in allocation of blocks to private companies by the coal ministry, the Supreme Court in 2014 cancelled all 214 coal block allocations on the grounds of arbitrariness and legal flaws.

After the allegations about Ranjit Sinha meeting the accused were brought to the notice of the Supreme Court by advocate Prashant Bhushan, the top court held that it was completely inappropriate for the CBI chief to have done so without the investigating officer or team being present .

The apex court, in May 2015, stated that it was necessary to look into the question whether any one or more such meetings of Sinha with accused persons without the investigating officer have had any impact on the investigations and subsequent charge sheets or closure reports filed by CBI.

On September 21, 2015, the apex court constituted a team headed by former Special Director of CBI , M L Sharma to enquire into the matter.

After Sharma submitted his report, the SC constituted “a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by CBI Director on January 23, 2017 to look into the report prepared by Sharma and other relevant documents and conduct an investigation into the abuse of authority prima facie by Sinha with a view to scuttle inquiries, investigations and prosecutions being carried out by the CBI in coal block allocation cases”, according to the CBI FIR filed in 2017.

CBI booked Sinha under “criminal misconduct” and section 13 (1) (d), pertaining to abusing official position while holding a public office and indulging in corruption, of the Prevention of Corruption (PC) Act.

Ranjit Sinha was the second CBI director to be probed by agency itself after AP Singh, who was booked by the agency for corruption charges along with meat exporter Moin Qureshi (in February 2017).