The two had attracted the court’s ire for shifting joint director AK Sharma out of the CBI in disregard of the court order that the latter be retained as in-charge of probe into the Muzaffarpur shelter home rape cases.
Both Rao and Bhasuran were told to “sit in a corner and remain inside till the rising of the court. They were made to sit at the left-hand side visitors’ gallery of the courtroom and were not allowed to go out even during lunch time from 1-2pm, when the bench had risen.
This is the first time a top officer of the CBI and a legal adviser have been punished for contempt of court. A bench of Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi and Justices L Nageswara Rao showed no leniency to the contemnors after going through the file noting on relieving Sharma from the CBI in an unusually expeditious manner on January 18 after the Centre decided to promote him as additional director general of the CRPF.
In our considered view, the present is a case where contempt has been committed, both by Nageshwar Rao, then in-charge CBI director (now additional director, CBI) and Bhasuran S, additional legal adviser and in-charge director of prosecution, CBI. The apology tendered, though stated to be unconditional, is not so. There is a submission/contention that the actions were not wilful, with which contention, we are in total disagreement,” the bench said.
Octogenarian AG KK Venugopal tried hard to get the court to relent, arguing that it was not a case of wilful default and also that the two officers had apologised unconditionally. “To err is human and to forgive is divine,” said the AG.
But the plea failed to mollify the SC’s anger.
The bench said, “For commission of contempt of court, we sentence them till the rising of the court and impose a fine of Rs 1 lakh each on Rao and Bhasuran, to be deposited within a week.”
At around 3.30pm, the AG, accompanied by the two contemnors, made another attempt for leniency by pleading that they were tendering an unconditional apology and be allowed to go. But the CJI-led bench said: “We have sentenced you to sit inside the court till the rising of the bench. Hope you do not want it to be extended till tomorrow.”
Rao and Bhasuran finally walked out of the courtroom at 4.30pm.
AK Sharma, considered close to Verma – the former director who was removed because of the charges facing him – lost the key position of joint director (policy) after Nageshwar Rao took over as the interim director in October.
He got back the coveted perch in January when the SC restored Verma, with the latter reversing all transfers and postings effected under Rao. Sharma could continue at the key station only for two days as a PM-led panel removed Verma and Rao returned as interim director.
The bench found that Rao was aware of the two SC orders in a petition relating to the Muzaffarpur rape cases, directing that Sharma must not be shifted out as he was in charge of the probe. In fact, the examination of documents showed that Rao had raised the issue of the SC bar on shifting Sharma out with Bhasuran and was advised that Sharma, who has been promoted as ADG of CRPF, could be shifted out and the court only had to be informed about it.