CBI in a quandary over Sarabjot Singh



New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is in a spot. After claiming that Sarabjot Singh had named his father and former Home Minister Buta Singh in a bribery scandal, the investigators are now aghast over the U-turn by the accused.

CBI officers had leaked to the media last week that Sarabjot alias Sweety Singh had told them that Buta Singh was aware that he was to accept bribes from a Nashik-based contractor.

But once in court, Sweety Singh insisted that it was under pressure that he implicated his father Buta Singh, chairman of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST).

"Sweety Singh confessed to us that his father knew about the deal with (contractor) Ramraj Patil as he himself had told him (Buta Singh)," a highly-placed CBI source said here.

"But in the court he said that whatever statement he gave to investigating officers was under pressure," the source added.

According to the CBI officers, Sweety Singh's statement made them feel the need to speak to Buta Singh, a long-time leader of the Congress party.

CBI director Ashwini Kumar had said that his men would question Buta Singh if needed.

Buta Singh has repeatedly denied his involvement in the corruption deal under which Sweety Singh allegedly took Rs 1 crore (Rs 10 million) as bribe from Patil to ensure the withdrawal of a case against him being probed by the SC/ST commission that Buta Singh heads.

Sweety Singh was allegedly caught taking the bribe July 30 in New Delhi and arrested formally the next day in Mumbai on charges of taking the bribe. He was remanded to police custody till Aug 5.

Buta Singh had said he would cooperate with the CBI but accused the agency of plotting a "political conspiracy" against him by "framing" his son.

CBI sources now say they are unlikely to question Buta Singh because they do not have anything concrete suggesting his involvement in the matter.

"We don't have any recorded conversation between Buta Singh and his son suggesting the former was aware of the conspiracy. We recorded telephonic conversation between Sweety Singh and others," the source added.

The CBI officers feel they have enough material evidence and witnesses to prove their case against Sweety Singh in the court.

The agency is now planning to question Sweety Singh's father-in-law, whose mobile phone was used to make calls to hawala operators and other accused, according to the investigators.

The corruption case against Sweety Singh follows a complaint from Patil, who alleged that Sweety Singh demanded a bribe of Rs 3 crore to facilitate the withdrawal of the case filed against Patil by a group of conservancy workers.

Patil is a garbage collection contractor with the Nashik Municipal Corporation. Some 100 of his employees complained he was not paying their wages and had also taken a bank loan of Rs.10 crore in their name. Now the bank was asking them to cough up the money.

IANS