CBI faced threats from Kolkata Police

Interview/ Pankaj Srivastava, cbi joint director (east)

45-Pankaj-Srivastava Pankaj Srivastava

PANKAJ SRIVASTAVA WAS appointed CBI joint director (east) last year by former CBI director Alok Verma. An IPS officer of the Madhya Pradesh cadre, Srivastava is known to be upright. It is a testimony to his integrity that the sensitive Saradha and Rose Valley Ponzi scheme cases were handed over to him after the Bureau was criticised by the Supreme Court for its slow pace of investigation.

On February 3, CBI officers who went to question Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in connection with the cases were detained by the police. Their mobiles were snatched, thereby denying them a chance to call Srivastava. A CBI officer said that the Bureau’s officers—who are of the ranks of deputy superintendent of police, deputy commissioner of police and senior superintendent of police—were manhandled.

The police then besieged Srivastava’s house, trapping him inside. Eventually, CRPF teams raced to his office in Nizam Palace, his house and the CBI’s state headquarters in Salt Lake City to protect the premises and the evidence inside. Srivastava was later flown to Delhi.

Srivastava spoke to THE WEEK about the situation and denied the allegation that the Bureau was acting without evidence. Excerpts:

Your official residence was besieged by the Kolkata Police.

Yes, thankfully I am safe now. The police could have done something wrong, as they were banging on the door constantly and asking me to come out.

Were you afraid?

Well, they tried to harm me, no doubt. I was with my wife and child.

Did they break through your security?

We (senior officers) in the CBI do not enjoy security cover as such. But, yes, the police team tried to break down my door. I bolted it from the inside. I was harassed to no end.

It is alleged that you sent officers to arrest the commissioner.

No, our officers went to interrogate him. But, yes, if he had refused to cooperate, we might have arrested him.

Does he enjoy legal immunity?

We (senior police officers) all have safeguards of the law. But, that is limited. There is no immunity for any accused. He (Kumar) is an accused.

Do you have evidence to book him?

Yes. The investigation has been going on for long. We faced a series of threats from different quarters, including from the state police. There was huge obstruction before us. Now we are heading towards finding out the larger conspiracy in the case, as directed by the Supreme Court.

What kind of threats and impediments did you face?

Whenever our men called the suspects for interrogation, they were threatened. The suspects called them and said that if we do not stop the investigation, we would have to face serious consequences.

Do you have proof of these threats?

Yes. We have records of such threats. We can present them in court.

Is the investigation heading towards its logical conclusion?

Yes, it is. We are trying to wind it up. We need to book accused persons involved in the case and bring out the larger conspiracy. We are answerable to the Supreme Court. It is the Supreme Court that asked us to carry out the investigation.

The police said that the commissioner should have been informed earlier.

We had sent a series of letters to him earlier. He chose to ignore them. We told him that we were investigating as directed by the Supreme Court. But these people tried to influence the investigation and never gave importance to our request.

Did you inform the CBI acting director before calling on the commissioner?

Yes, I have followed all the procedures. It (the visit to the commissioner’s residence) was sanctioned by him (the CBI acting director).

Was there any pressure on you to go slow on the investigation?

Not at all. I felt no pressure and worked according to the law.

So, the CBI has not been and cannot be pressured in this high profile case?

No. The investigation will go on and the law will take its course. We will book all the offenders.