February 12, 2019:
On Monday, CBI additional director M Nageswara Rao filed an affidavit before the Apex Court tendering “unconditional & unqualified apology”.
He was held prima facie guilty of “contempt” by the Supreme Court last week for unilaterally transferring former joint director AK Sharma, who was supervising the probe into Bihar Shelter Home sexual abuse cases, without its approval.
The Supreme Court had summoned Rao along with other officers, who were part of the decision, to appear before it on Tuesday. As Interim Director of CBI, he had transferred Sharma out of the CBI on Jan 18.
Asserting that “perhaps on account of the pressure of work, there was a lapse and error of judgement” on his part, Rao has stated that “his actions were neither willful nor with any contumacious intent.”
“It was never my intention to undermine the majesty of this honourable court, or to flout or circumvent any direction of this honorable Court,” Rao added while requesting the apex court to accept his apology.
Suggesting that, as interim CBI Director, he went by the legal advice put before him, Rao said, “I ought not to have agreed with the legal advice for relieving AK Sharma even on his promotion without prior approval of this Hon’ble Court.”
“That without in any way trying to detract from the sincere expression of apology and the unreserved and unconditional apology tendered above, which I repeat and reiterate, I submit that the said action came to be made not with any deliberate or disobedient intent.” Rao added.
The Apex Court is monitoring probe in shelter home cases on a petition filed by Social Activist Nivedita Jha who approached the SC through her Advocate Fauzia Shakil.
A bench comprising of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justice Deepak Gupta and Justice Sanjiv Khanna termed it “violation of its previous order which had directed that no officer involved in the probe be transferred without the court’s approval.”
“We are going to take it very, very seriously. You have played with our order. Now God help you. Why did you not obtain leave of this court as per earlier orders? It is a fit case for contempt. Enough is enough,” the bench said in its order last week.
Rao has cited work pressure in his affidavit saying he is the only serving additional legal advisor (ALA) currently in CBI despite there being 8 sanctioned posts for the same, and that he is also looking after the work of director of prosecution (DoP) after OP Verma retired in Dec 2018.
Rao was serving as interim CBI chief since October 23 last year when former CBI director Alok Verma and Special Director Rakesh Asthana were sent on leave, except when Alok Verma was briefly reinstated on Jan 8 & 9 by the Apex Court.
Verma was ultimately sacked by the Government and Rao again took over the agency’s charge on Jan 10 and went on a transfers’ spree. The new CBI director Rishi Kumar Shukla joined earlier this month.
The CBI had informed the Supreme Court last week that the decision to transfer Sharma was taken by Rao and the Appointments Committee of Cabinet (ACC) was not kept in the loop about the court order.