‘Sit in corner till court rises’: Former interim CBI director Nageswara Rao guilty of contempt of court

Nageswara Rao (right) at North Block. (file/Express photo by Prem Nath Pandey)

Former CBI interim director M Nageswara Rao was found guilty of contempt of court and fined Rs 1 lakh by the Supreme Court on Tuesday for shunting out a CBI officer who was in charge of the Muzaffarpur shelter abuse probe despite a freeze on transfers. Additional Legal Advisor S Bhasuran was also held guilty for the same offence and imposed Rs 1 lakh fine. The two were sentenced till the rising of the court.

"Go to one corner of court and sit down till court rises," a bench led by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi ordered.

Coming down heavily on Rao for his "brazen" attitude, the court said, "Nageswar Rao was aware of SC’s directions that the CBI officer cannot be transferred without its consent. If this is not contempt of court then what is?"

Rao who had personally appeared in the court today tendered an "unconditional" apology in the court. The bench also comprising of Justices Deepak Gupta and Sanjiv Khanna said, "Nageswara Rao has put himself at mercy of the court and has had an unblemished career as a police officer. Even if we accept his apology, his career record will remain blemished, as he has acted in contempt by his own admission."

Attorney General KK Venugopal, appearing for the CBI, informed the bench that the two have unconditionally apologised and they have not done at this willfully.

CJI Gogoi responded saying: "Contempt has been committed. So there will be a mark on his ( former interim CBI Director M Nageshwar Rao) career."

AG Venugopal requested the bench to be lenient as Nageswara Rao has an "unblemished track record of 32 years". "He has an unblemished track record of 32 years. Please kindly adopt merciful approach as he has tendered apologies." the AG said.

In an affidavit, Rao said he had "not wilfully violated the orders of this Hon'ble court as I cannot even dream of violating or circumventing the order of this Hon'ble court..." "I unhesitatingly accept my mistake and tender my unconditional and unequivocal apology," he said. He submitted he did not have any "deliberate or disobedient intent" and it was "never my intention to undermine the majesty" of the court.

Expressing its disapproval over Rao’s actions, the court had earler said, "You are playing with the order of the Supreme Court. God help you...Never, never play with the order of the court." Turning to the CBI officer who filed the document, CJI Gogoi remarked "never ever file an affidavit which is not in your personal satisfaction. Law is the only master you serve..."

The Court had referred to its orders dated October 31 and November 28, 2018, when it had directed that Sharma would remain in charge of the investigation. The November 28 order also said that no official associated with the probe should be transferred without the leave of the Court, the bench pointed out, and said its leave was, however, not taken before Sharma was transferred to the CRPF as Additional Director on January 19.