‘Sit Where You Are!’ CJI Tells Nageshwar Rao’s Counsel Venugopal
Former Interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao.
Former Interim CBI chief M Nageshwar Rao.(Photo: Altered by The Quint)

‘Sit Where You Are!’ CJI Tells Nageshwar Rao’s Counsel Venugopal

Former CBI interim chief M Nageshwar Rao left Courtroom 1 of the Supreme Court on Tuesday, 12 February, after he was sentenced till rising of the Court and slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh for contempt.

A Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi, held Rao “guilty of contempt’’ for violating the SC’s order over transfer of the probing officer in the Muzaffarpur shelter home case.

According to Utkarsh Anand, the legal editor of CNN-News 18, Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for Rao, sought permission of CJI Ranjan Gogoi to let Rao leave at 3.40 pm, 20 minutes before the court was supposed to close.

“What’s this? Do you want us to sentence him till the rising of the court tomorrow? Go and sit where you were,” a furious Gogoi then told Venugopal.

‘Guilty of Contempt’

Dictating the order, the apex court also held that it rejected the apology issued by Rao, adding that what he had done was in “blatant violation of the court’s order.”

Venugopal had sought a sympathetic view from the bench, admitting that Rao’s action of transferring former joint director AK Sharma was a “mistake, but not a wilful one.” According to Live Law, the AG further added that Rao had acted on “incorrect legal advice.”

Meanwhile, the CJI asked the AG if he would argue for Rao on the issue of sentence, adding that the court was holding the latter “guilty for contempt.”

The AG, in response, pleaded that the fault was not Rao’s but his lawyers’ who did not take the court into confidence of his decision to transfer Sharma.

The CJI, in turn, observed that even if the court does take into account Rao’s apology, “his career record will remain blemished, as he has acted in contempt by his own admission.” The CJI also came down heavily on Rao, saying he has “rarely ever invoked contempt proceedings in the last 20 years.”

Rao Issues Apology, Admits Transfer was a ‘Mistake’

Rao on Monday, 11 February, admitted that as an interim chief of the CBI he committed "mistake" in transferring former joint director AK Sharma, who was probing Bihar’s shelter home cases, and apologised to the Supreme Court saying he had no intention to circumvent its orders.

Also Read : CBI Files Chargesheet in Muzaffarpur Shelter Home Sex Scandal

Rao, who filed an affidavit in response to a contempt notice issued to him on 7 February , said he was praying for an unconditional and unqualified apology by the apex court.

“I sincerely realise my mistake and while tendering my unqualified and unconditional apology, I specially state I have not willfully violated the order of this court, as I cannot even dream of violating or circumventing order of this court.” 
Nageshwar Rao, Former Interim CBI Director

He admitted that in view of the Supreme Court orders dated 31 October and 28 November 2018. "I ought not to have agreed with the legal advice for relieving AK Sharma even in his promotion without prior approval of this court."

What Did Supreme Court Say?

The Supreme Court on 7 February came down heavily on the CBI for transferring Sharma, who was probing Bihar's shelter home cases, out of the agency in violation of the court's order and had directed Rao to personally appear before it on 12 February.

A bench headed by Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi took serious note of violation of two earlier orders of the apex court and issued contempt notice to Rao for transferring Sharma to the CRPF on 17 January without taking prior permission from the court.

Also Read : ‘God Help You’: SC Raps Ex-CBI Interim Chief In Shelter Home Case

‘I Unhesitatingly Accept My Mistake’

"I unhesitatingly accept my mistake and tender my unconditional and unequivocal apology to this court. I most respectfully pray that this court may be graciously pleased to accept the same," Rao said.

He also submitted that the officer was “transferred not with any deliberate or disobedient intent and it is humbly submitted that it was never my intention to undermine the majesty of this court or flout or circumvent any direction of this court."

The IPS officer, who is an additional director in the CBI, said he has the highest respect for the apex court and prayed "most humbly and respectfully" that his apology be accepted.

(With inputs from PTI.)

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