The Supreme Court Monday reprimanded the Central Bureau of Investigation over delay in filing the charge sheets in five cases relating to the coal scam in which its investigations are already over.
"This is too much. You can't do it. Ultimately it has to be finished by you, then why delay," said a bench of Justice R M Lodha, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph as senior counsel Amrendra Saran appearing for CBI sought four weeks' time to file the charge sheets.
Saran told the court that the charge sheets were needed to be vetted and it would take four weeks' time.
"If you decide, you will do it... Mr. Saran, if you give your full time, then everything will be done," the court said as counsel Prashant Bhushan reminded the court that during the previous hearing of the matter (February 10), the CBI had said that six charge sheets were ready and would be filed shortly.
Giving CBI two weeks' time till March 28, when the court will hold further hearing into the matter, Justice Lodha told Saran that if investigating agency would not act with promptitude then "next course will be to ask the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) to vet the report".
"You sought time... we gave (it to) you. You sought lawyers, we gave you. We gave you everything you wanted, then why this delay?"
- Supreme Court to CBI
The court said it is yet holding its hand because it feels that so far the investigating agency has done a good job.
The court said this in the course of the hearings of PILs by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma and NGO Common Cause seeking the cancellation of coal blocks that were allocated irregularly by the central government.
Describing the delay as deliberate, Bhushan, who appeared for Common Cause, contended that the investigating agency was trying to take the entire matter beyond the Lok Sabha elections.
Attributing his statement to credible inside sources, Bhushan said the filing of the charge sheet was "just being delayed at the top (level of the CBI)".
The court expressed its disapproval of the CBI's pace as in the hearing February 10, it had granted the investigating agency three weeks time to file the charge sheets.
The court also issued notice on the central government's application seeking directions to CBI to share some of the information of its investigation on Hindalco. The notice is returnable in two weeks.
At the outset of the hearing, the court expressed its reservation on the CVC telling it that its (CVC's) superintendence over the CBI was confined to taking reports on the status of various cases under investigations, meeting with the CBI director once a month and issuing direction for investigation under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"We are conscious of the fact that in the matter of investigation there may not be untoward interference by the CVC but its scope (of superintendence) could not be read so restrictively that it defeats the legislative intent (of placing CBI under the CVC's superintendence for cases under the Prevention of Corruption Act)."
It said the CVC is prohibited from asking the investigating agency on the mode and manner its investigation would proceed but can certainly examine the integrity of the investigation.
The court said this in the course of the hearing of submission by CVC, CBI and Common Cause on the scope of CVC powers of superintendence over the CBI.