A CBI with agency

Will Supreme Court use the opportunity to free it from government shackles?

Today, April 30, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court will take up CBI Director Ranjit Sinha's affidavit admitting that the agency's status report in the coal blocks allocation scam had been shown to Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar "as desired by him". The affidavit further states that the report was also shared with senior functionaries of the PMO and the Union coal ministry. Will the bench treat the UPA's latest thinly-veiled attempt to interfere in the functioning of the CBI as an opportunity to finally free the probe agency of government's shackles?

The court can either use this opportunity to set a historic benchmark, as in the Jain hawala case and the Central Vigilance Commissioner P.J. Thomas judgment, or treat it as just another routine case. While the government would like everyone to believe that there is nothing wrong if a law minister and officers of various departments go through a yet-to-be-submitted status report in a scam, the court's response to the serious transgression could prove to be the proverbial last nail in the coffin.

There are certain questions that the government and the CBI must answer before claiming the benefit of doubt. Since the CBI director had already shown the report to the law minister and senior officers "as desired by them", why did the probe agency go through the charade of submitting the report in a sealed cover in court? Also, if Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval was present when the law minister went through the report, why did he assert that the report had not been shared with anyone in the political executive? As for the definition of "political executive", if Ashwani Kumar really feels that the "law minister is not the political executive in terms of administrative control of CBI", the prime minister must remove him for incompetence.

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