New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Tuesday held former interim chief of the CBI M Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt and sentenced him to confinement in the courtroom till the rising of the court.
A bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi also slapped a penalty of Rs 1 lakh on Rao and gave him a week to deposit it.
Additional legal advisor Bhasuran S was also held guilty of contempt and punished in the same manner.
“You both go and sit in one corner of the court till we rise,” Justice Gogoi told Rao and Bhasuran.
The officers have been held guilty over transfer of the senior most investigating officer of the Muzaffarpur shelter home sexual abuse cases.
The bench rejected Rao’s defence that it was not an instance of wilful disobedience on his part but an error of judgement.
Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the CBI director in the case, also requested the bench to accept the unconditional apology tendered by Rao and Bhasuran and let them off with a stern warning.
Venugopal also tried to persuade the bench that it was the junior lawyers in the central law agency who were perhaps responsible for not informing the court about the proposed transfer of Sharma.
But the top court took a strict view, observing the present was an instance of gross contempt and that officers will have to be held guilty and punished.
Both Rao and Bhasuran have to now spend the day in Courtroom no.1 as their punishment.
The former interim chief of the CBI had a day ago tendered an unconditional apology before the Supreme Court and said he “cannot even dream of violating the court orders”.
Submitting his affidavit pursuant to a showcause notice by the top court, Rao said that he realises his mistake that he should not have issued the order of relieving investigating officer AK Sharma without the court’s permission.
“I sincerely realise my mistake, and while tendering my unqualified and unconditional apology specifically, I state that I have wilfully not violated the orders of this Hon’ble Court, as I cannot even dream of violating or circumventing the orders of this Hon’ble Court,” stated Rao’s affidavit, filed in terms of the court order last week.
On February 7, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi had come down heavily on Rao as well as the in-charge of the Director of Prosecution in transferring Sharma despite there being two categorical orders by the apex court prohibiting the transfer of Sharma without the court’s permission.
But on January 17, CBI Joint Director Sharma was appointed as the Additional Director General in the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), and the records adduced before the bench showed that both Rao, who was then discharging duties as the CBI chief, and in-charge of the director of prosecution Bhasuran had opined in favour of relieving Sharma from the Muzaffarpur case.
Sharma was shifted out as part of the overnight mass transfer that followed the public feud between the agency’s former chief Alok Verma and his deputy Rakesh Asthana.
The bench, in its order on February 7, recorded that Rao and Bhasuran have prima facie committed contempt of court and that they should be hauled up for violating its directives. The court also remarked that it appeared Rao did not care to inform the Appointments Committee of the Cabinet about the restraint order.
While summoning Rao and Bhasuran on Tuesday, the bench had further asked the present CBI director to submit a list of all the officers involved in transfer of Sharma in breach of the court orders. “”You have played with our orders. God help you,” the CJI had then observed.
A day before he has to show up in the court, Rao and Bhasuran had filed their affidavits to purge the contempt.
“I unhesitatingly accept my mistake and tender my unconditional and unequivocal apology to this Hon’ble Court. I most respectfully pray that this Hon’ble Court may be graciously pleased to accept the same,” read the affidavits.