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    Posted on 01 Dec 2012
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    Some call us Congress Bureau of Investigation but also ask for a CBI inquiry: AP Singh

    “I WILL GET BACK to playing golf and spending time with my two daughters; I have had enough of politics and crime,” says Amar Pratap Singh, who retired as the CBI director on 30 November. His tenure has seen perhaps the most trying times for the agency, which saw controversial cases such as the 2G and Adarsh scams, Aarushi murder and the Gujarat fake encounters being probed. The agency was also accused of being run by the Congress. An “accidental cop”, as he calls himself but for a chance shot at the Civil Services examination which was the popular option in those days, Singh tells RANA AYYUB about the legacy he is leaving behind, two days before he stepped down.

    AP Singh retired as the CBI Director on 30 November


    EDITED EXCERPTS FROM AN INTERVIEW

    There is a controversy brewing over your successor’s appointment, with the Opposition demanding a consensus candidate.
    Ranjit Sinha, who has earlier worked in the CBI, is a very experienced and senior police officer. It’s unfortunate that his appointment became a subject of controversy. The Supreme Court (SC) has set guidelines for appointing the CBI directors and I believe that’s exactly what has been followed in the case of Sinha’s appointment. There have been suggestions that I had asked for an extension. Let me set the record straight: neither had I asked for an extension, nor did the government offer me one. Yes, I had suggested that the CBI director’s term be extended from two to five years, or at least three years, so there is continuity and it helps the cases see their logical end. However, that was not personally for me; it was a suggestion to be included in the proposed Lokpal Bill. I have done my job to the best of my abilities. I’m leaving the CBI with a fairly clean slate.

    When you say logical end, do you believe that most cases handed over to the CBI were dealt with without any political interference?
    What political interference? All the cases, be it the 2G, Aarushi or the Gujarat fake encounters, were being directly monitored by the SC, which was giving extensions and approving the status reports. So, where is the question of politicisation of the CBI? The same people who call us the Congress Bureau of Investigation don’t lose an opportunity to ask for a CBI inquiry, so why the hypocrisy? Under my tenure, the CBI has been absolutely independent. Internally, yes, we may have had a difference of opinion, be it with my juniors or with my special directors over some cases, but that’s where it ends. The buck stops at my door. We are being accused of being party to politics. I do meet politicians and bureaucrats, but that’s a part of my job. But I do ensure that none of my officials are exposed to political pressures.

    You raised an important point that you and your officers had a difference of opinion on cases. The Aarushi murder case was one such case, I believe?
    Yes, it was. My gut feeling said we were not able to establish a clear motive. That was my personal opinion. My investigating officers had reasons to believe otherwise. Eventually, I agreed and went with the findings of my officers and concurred with them. That’s what democratic organisations are all about. There have been cases when we started on a different note and ended up going in another direction. The Shehla Masood case was one such example. We thought it was the RTI link that got her murdered; it ended up being personal. So that’s what I’m saying, we are only human, and our perceptions are liable to change during the course of an investigation.

    Your officials believe that A Raja was implicated politically, whereas the others were let scot-free. That Raja’s arrest was a part of the Congress’ strategy to keep the DMK in control.
    That is a blatantly false and baseless accusation. The 2G case was being monitored by the SC directly. It was a clear case of corruption and a document-based investigation, more of an anti-corruption unit’s job, and we did just that. Followed the dots. But yes, I said earlier too, officers may not subscribe to my views and opinions. But I, as the CBI director, have to look at the holistic evidence, talk to attorneys, the amicus curiae and then take a decision. This is my job and it comes with a fair share of criticism.

    And Amit Shah? TEHELKA produced the most incriminating evidence that led to his arrest, but he is now out on bail and contesting the Assembly polls.
    The call records indeed are the more crucial bits of evidence and we left no stone unturned. But then, there were many hurdles. Our officers faced a great deal of hostility in the state with almost no help. Investigating officers had to be changed, with accusations thrown in, with probes taking longer than ever. But today, he stands chargesheeted in the cases. Sooner or later, the law will take its course. Right now, it’s the SC that has ordered a stay in the case. We will have to wait for the next hearing. As far as him contesting the election is concerned, there is no bar to contesting elections until convicted, that too for a minimum period.

    There is a cynicism that has crept in, that the cases in Gujarat have slowed down due to the election.
    It’s been four years since the case was handed over to the CBI. There is a legal system that has to be followed and the fact that we filed a chargesheet in the Tulsi Prajapati case only two months ago shows that there has been no slowdown. I’m aware of the accusations being made against us of going slow, but have we not made significant breakthroughs? We arrested the home minister and now we have chargesheeted him again in the Tulsi Prajapati case.

    But TEHELKA had produced evidence not just against Amit Shah, but also against top IPS officers. We accessed your status reports, which recommended their arrests. Why hasn’t that happened?
    We did name them in the chargesheet for obfuscation of evidence and, of course, the IPS officers are party to tampering with details. But we just can’t arrest anybody like that. They have been named in the chargesheet, now the law will have to take its course. You have to give us credit for taking over the case and taking it to a logical end at a time when almost all of the evidence was beyond our reach.

    What about the IB’s involvement? Your agency seems to have given them a clean chit.
    We have not given anybody a clean chit. Remember, the cases are still under investigation.

    How do you deal with the Opposition’s view, especially that of the BJP, that the CBI should be brought under the Lokpal’s ambit?
    I have done my best to reach out to all political outfits, including the BJP, and I believe I brought consensus among most of the parties and civil society leaders that the CBI is the most important component of the anti-corruption machinery. It needs to be strengthened and made more autonomous. I convinced them that they should not divide the CBI and change the agency’s intrinsic character. The final Select Committee Bill is different from the Jan Lokpal Bill. It is for this reason that we met the political outfits and leaders.

    What are the problems that the CBI is facing right now?
    We have too little manpower and too many cases. Almost everyone wants every case to go to the CBI. The CBI was originally meant only to investigate corruption in the Central government. I’m glad that the public has great faith in the CBI, but we too have our shortcomings. We were recently asked to do an inquiry into illegal construction in the entire Ranchi municipality area, in Jharkhand. If all this is to be done by the CBI, what is the need for the local police? The system has to strengthen the hands of the CBI and give it more power.

    Do you have any regrets? Any cases that you believe were the high points in your stint?
    None that I can think of (laughs). But I think I had a good success rate. My conscience is clear and my officials, despite being looked at with cynicism and suspicion, have done a great job in perhaps the toughest time for the agency. Unlike the 2G and Adarsh cases, where everything was documented, I personally found investigations like the Bhanwari Devi and the Shehla Masood cases very challenging, which were the CBI’s biggest achievements. We started from nowhere and managed to get the truth out of the graves. Cases that were not seen as political ploys. It made us feel like professional officers all over again.

    Rana Ayyub is an Assistant Editor with Tehelka.
    rana@tehelka.com


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    Posted on 01 Dec 2012
 
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