Former CBI chief Ranjit Sinha passes away

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New Delhi, Apr 16 (PTI) Former CBI director Ranjit Sinha died here Friday morning at the age of 68 in what is believed to be a COVID-19 related death, senior officials said.

He was confirmed positive for coronavirus on Thursday night and breathed his last at 4.30 am, the officials said.

Sinha, a 1974-batch IPS officer of Bihar cadre who had cracked the coveted UPSC examination at the age of 21, headed the CBI for a controversial two-year term in 2012 as its 26th chief during which the agency earned the sobriquet of 'caged parrot'. The scathing remarks by Justice RM Lodha were a result of Sinha's nine-page affidavit to the Supreme Court giving details of his meetings with the then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and other senior officers during which changes were made in the coal scam probe report submitted to the apex court.

'Whatever the Supreme Court says is correct,' was his response to the reporters after the controversy.

Towards the fag end of his tenure, another controversy stuck him. A purported visitors' diary with names of persons under the CBI scanner in coal and 2G scam surfaced in 2014. It showed that these people were allegedly frequenting his residence. The Supreme Court directed the then CBI chief to recuse himself from the 2G scam probe on PIL alleging that Sinha met accused at his residence. The Supreme Court asked former CBI special director ML Sharma to carry out an inquiry into allegations. Taking note of Sharma's report, the CBI registered an FIR against Sinha which remains under probe.

Known for making off the cuff remarks, Sinha during a drab conference on sports ethics attracted media spotlight when he said 'If you cannot enforce the ban on betting, it is like saying 'if you can't prevent rape, you enjoy it'.' Made in the presence of senior sportspersons like Rahul Dravid, Sinha's comment triggered sharp retort from politicians who said it was akin to glorifying rape. He apologised next day for any 'any hurt' caused by his 'inadvertent and unintended remarks'.

It was in 1996, the Patna High Court questioned his role in shielding Lalu Prasad in the fodder scam. Sinha was removed from the probe on high court's orders. 'The Central Bureau of Investigation is deeply saddened to learn the demise of Ranjit Sinha, former Director, CBI. CBI extends its deepest condolence & sympathy to the bereaved family and prays to the Almighty to give the family the strength & fortitude to bear their loss at this time of great sorrow,' CBI said in its condolence statement. 'Our heartfelt condolences are with the bereaved family in this hour of intense grief. May his soul rest in peace,' Director in-charge Praveen Sinha said in a statement.

A tough task master, Sinha was known for his grip on terrorism and insurgency related issues.

As DG, Sinha is credited with giving punch to Railway Protection Force post 26/11 Mumbai terror attack when iconic Chatrapati Shivaji terminus came under terror attack.

Sinha recommended creating commando units and quick reaction teams besides equipping railway stations with airport like security systems with scanners, cameras etc to prevent future terror attacks.

During his tenure as RPF chief, he fell out of favour with powers that be when he objected to RPF commando protection to his former minister Mamata Banerjee.

Former Railway Minister Banerjee had become West Bengal Chief Minister but continued to keep a posse of RPF Commandos for her security which was questioned by Sinha as RPF did not have mandate of VVIP security. He was shunted out of RPF to remain without posting for four months.

Sinha during his initial days in police service was posted as SSP in Ranchi, Madhubani and Saharsa districts and also as DIG Magadh Range in considered hotbeds of naxalism in Bihar which gave him expertise in devising strategies to counter insurgents.

His expertise in handling terrorism came in handy during his assignment as ITBP chief. He was sent to Afghanistan to give report on strengthening security of Indian assets from Taliban. He suggested several measures including increasing the presence of the force to guard Indian installations.

'DG and all ranks of ITBP express their deepest condolences on sad demise of Sh Ranjit Sinha, former DG ITBP today. He served the force from September 1, 2011 to December 19, 2012 as DG and earlier as ADG and will always be remembered for his professional acumen and exceptional leadership. May his soul rest in peace,' the ITBP said in a statement.

An MPhil from the Indian Institute of Public Administration, Sinha was an avid reader and writer and a regular contributor on police-related issues in various journals and magazines.

A recipient of Police Medal for Meritorious Service and the President's Police Medal for Distinguished Service. PTI ABS ZMN