NEW DELHI (TIP): On a day when the Congress decimated the BJP in Karnataka, the UPA-2 government, particularly the Prime Minister’s Office and the law and coal ministries, came under heavy fire from the Supreme Court over the government’s meddling in the CBI’s Coalgate draft report.

Its observations have made the position of law minister Ashwani Kumar extremely vulnerable and the Congress leadership now finds it difficult to rally behind him. “After the Supreme Court observations, it has become extremely difficult to defend the law minister,” a senior Congress leader said. The court, in a scathing attack on the government and the CBI for colluding over the agency’s status report on its coal block allocation scam probe, said on Wednesday that the CBI was a ‘caged parrot’ which changed the ‘heart’ of the investigation on the suggestions of the law minister and joint secretaries of the PMO and the coal ministry.

“How can you share the report with officials whose departments are under the scanner? Changes made (in the report) on the suggestions of government officials seem to have changed the heart of the investigation,” a bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha told the CBI counsel.

CBI should interrogate, not interact: SC
Expressing dissatisfaction with the affidavit filed on Monday by CBI director Ranjit Sinha, which had stated the ‘heart’ of the status report was unch-anged despite changes by government officials, the Supreme Court bench said, “How on earth did joint secretaries hold a meeting and see the report? What business did they have in visiting the CBI office and perusing the report?” Disapproving of the CBI director’s clarifications SC bench said, “How can you give justification instead of accepting your mistake? Are you an investigator or collaborator? How can the CBI have regular interaction with government officials (as stated in the affidavit)? Your job is to investigate, not interact with the government,” the court told CBI counsel U.U. Lalit, adding, “The CBI must know how to stand against the government’s pulls and pressures.”

Ruing that the CBI was a ‘caged parrot that speaks in the voice of its many masters’, the bench warned that any intrusion into investigations being carried out by the CBI would not be tolerated. Holding that the Centre’s interference in CBI investigations was ‘worrying’, the bench said the Centre must pass a law in the near future to ensure the agency’s autonomy. “The government will have to legislate to free the CBI from its clutches.

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If the CBI is not made independent, we will have to step in. A law to ensure the CBI’s autonomy has to be in the offing,” the bench said, directing the Centre to file an affidavit in this regard by July 3. The court also ordered that DIG Ravi Kant, who was earlier the investigating officer in the probe, be immediately reinstated. The bench also ruled that no one, except the CBI dire-ctor and the probe team, be allowed to see any report concerning the case without the court’s permission.