SC holds ex-CBI interim chief Rao in contempt, slaps Rs 1 lakh fine
New Delhi, Feb 12: The Supreme Court on Tuesday held former CBI interim Director and now additional director M. Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt of Court in case of transferring the CBI officer probing the Bihar shelter home cases despite an order of the court against it.
The apex court also imposed a fine of Rs. one lakh, after noting that the transfer orders were passed by him despite knowing that the SC had ordered that the investigation team should not be changed.
Attorney General K K Venugopal, appearing for Rao, made a fervent plea for leniency, saying that Rao's mistake was not willful.
Earlier on Tuesday, Nageswara Rao who appeared in Supreme Court had tendered an unconditional apology to the court for transferring the officer in charge of the Muzzafarpur shelter home horror probe, bypassing court orders. The court had to decide whether to pardon him or punish him for contempt. The offence carries a maximum jail term of 6 months.
In an affidavit, Rao said he cannot even "dream of violating court's orders". "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," read Rao's affidavit.
Last week, a bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi termed the transfer decision "full contempt of court" because one of its earlier orders explicitly said joint director A K Sharma should not be shifted. The court summoned Rao and the agency's acting director of prosecution S Bhasuran on February 12. It also asked the CBI director to identify officers who were involved in the transfer of Sharma from CBI. The top court is likely to take up Rao's affidavit on Tuesday.
The court had issued the notice to Rao for transferring joint director A K Sharma out of CBI.
A three judge bench, led by CJI Ranjan Gogoi, had at the last hearing issued contempt notices to him. In a stern message, the court had said that officers must obey the law and not "politicians" or "bureaucrats". "The law is your master not politicians or bureaucrats," the CJI had said.
Rao on February 11 admitted that as interim chief of the CBI he committed a "mistake" in transferring Sharma and apologised to the top court, saying he had no intention to circumvent its orders.
Rao, who filed an affidavit in response to the contempt notice issued to him on February 7, said he was praying for an unconditional and unqualified apology by the court.
The CBI is not only probing the Muzaffarpur house of horrors case but also the conditions in 16 other shelter homes which reported similar physical and sexual abuse. The lid was blown off the scandal in the wake of a damning TISS report elaborating the sexual abuse of kids in the home run by muscleman and self-styled journalist Brajesh Thakur.
A state minister and her husband have also been arrested in connection with the case. All 21 accused will now be tried in a fast-track court in Delhi.