Is the CBI reluctant to nail IAS officers?

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Suresh Kalmadi has been arrested for his role in the TSR case, but some babus are walking free. Brijesh Pandey reports

Escape clause CWG Organising Committee CEO Jarnail Singh
Photo: PIB

WILL THE long arm of the law now reach out and singe Central government officers and the Commonwealth Games Organising Committee CEO Jarnail Singh? The TSR (timing, scoring, result) scam investigation has made progress with the arrest of former OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, along with his trusted aides, former secretary general Lalit Bhanot and former director general VK Verma. This question hangs like a heat shimmer over the spanking new office of the CBI but there is no answer yet, only a pregnant pause.

Ever since the story of the involvement of senior IAS officers from the sports and urban development ministries, as well as the OC CEO, in giving a Rs. 107 crore contract to Swiss Timing was exposed in the media (TEHELKA broke the story on 2 April, It wasn’t just Kalmadi’s OC. Many bureaucrats were also privy to decisions), hesitancy about fixing accountability of bureaucrats seems to be the mantra of the day.

Inaction on the part of the investigating agency — neither questioning these officials nor arresting them — does not augur well for the probe.

According to sources in the OC, the investigation done so far by the CBI leaves a lot to be desired. Kalmadi has been charged with conspiracy and cheating in the TSR case but, more importantly, no money trail has yet been found to establish how much bribe, if any, was given in this particular instance.

Second, what can make things difficult for the CBI in court is the reputation of Swiss Timing in conducting TSR worldwide. In 2009, contracts of all the major international sporting events, including the Olympics until 2020, were awarded to the Swiss firm by the International Olympic Committee. Surprisingly, the CBI is yet to send a Letter Rogatory to the company about the FIR.

Sources say that a careful scrutiny of the minutes of the meeting held by the financial sub-committee, the complaint letter sent by one Sangeeta Goyal to both the OC and the Central Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) and its subsequent handling by the ministry clearly reveal that the CVC, sports ministry, the Delhi government and other stakeholders were in the know of both the allegation and clearance given to the bid later on.

If Kalmadi and aides have been booked for this offence, then there is no reason why others who were party to the decision should escape questioning and censure.

Jarnail Singh was quick to deny any culpability on his part and immediately blamed Kalmadi and severe time constraints as reasons for approving the deal. But in letters written by him to the CVC and other ministries, there is no mention of “time constraints”. On the contrary, in a letter written on 5 December 2009 to Sports Secretary Sindhushree Khullar, Singh had written, “OC Chairman Suresh Kalmadi, in consultation with the EMC and myself, has decided that the entire TSR procurement case, accompanying documents, evaluation reports and request for proposal, are now to be forwarded to the sports ministry for independent and further evaluation and further direction on next steps.”

However, there is a studied silence on why neither the sports minister nor the secretary have so far explained why — if they knew something was amiss — they approved the contract.

Another important factor being overlooked is the fact that the CVC was aware of the complaint and the subsequent probe carried out by Singh. If they were not satisfied with the investigation, why was the contract approved?

CBI sources now indicate that the media exposé might force their hand in calling Singh to explain his position. And still the larger question remains: will the IAS officers be touched?

Brijesh Pandey is a Special Correspondent with Tehelka.
brijesh@tehelka.com

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