"It is true that a lot can be said about the independence of CBI as a premier investigating Agency but so long as there is nothing substantial affecting its credibility, it remains a premier investigating agency."
New Delhi, May 9 - In a setback to West Bengal government, the Supreme Court Friday handed over investigation into Saradha chit fund scam to the CBI saying that it would hold further investigation in all the cases including those where a charge sheet has been filed.
The court said that in Odisha, the Central Bureau of Investigation - would undertake investigation in all the cases registered against 44 companies and permitted the investigating agency to conduct further investigations into all such cases in which charge sheets have already been filed.
Handing over the investigation to CBI, a bench of Justice T.S. Thakur and Justice C.Nagappan asked the agency's joint director, in charge of West Bengal and Odisha, to seek further directions in relation to transfer of any other case or cases that may require to be transferred for investigation to CBI for a full and effective investigation into the scam.
Pointing to Rs.10,000 crore that were collected by Ponzi companies involving 25 lakh depositors - and its accompanied inter-state ramifications, the court said that the fear such huge collections could have international money laundering dimensions cannot be ruled out and needs to be effectively investigated.
Pronouncing the judgment, Justice Thakur said: Investigation by the state police in a scam that involves thousands of crores collected from the public allegedly because of the patronage of people occupying high positions in the system will hardly carry conviction especially when even the regulators who were expected to prevent or check such a scam appear to have turned a blind eye to what was going on.
The question, however, is not whether the state police has faltered. The question is whether what is done by the state police is sufficient to inspire confidence of those who are aggrieved, the court said.
Giving a left-handed compliment to the state police for its investigation, the court said: While we do not consider it necessary to go into the question whether the state police have done all that it ought to have done, we need to point out that money trail has not yet been traced. The collections made from the public far exceed the visible investment that the investigating agencies have till now identified.
So also the larger conspiracy angle in the states of Assam, Odisha and West Bengal although under investigation has not made much headway partly because of the inter-state ramifications, which the investigating agencies need to examine but are handicapped in examining.
On the contention of West Bengal and Odisha that CBI had lost its credibility and was no longer independent, the court said: There is, in our opinion, no basis of the apprehension expressed by the state governments.
It is true that a lot can be said about the independence of CBI as a premier investigating Agency but so long as there is nothing substantial affecting its credibility, it remains a premier investigating agency.
Those not satisfied with the performance of the state police more often than not demand investigation by the CBI for it inspires their confidence. We cannot, therefore, decline transfer of the cases only because of certain stray observations or misplaced apprehensions expressed by those connected with the scam or those likely to be affected by the investigation.