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CBI awaits nod to nail Sharief

New Delhi, April 8: Investigations over, the CBI is awaiting sanction to prosecute former railway minister C.K. Jaffer Sharief for allegedly causing a loss of over Rs 7 lakh to the government exchequer in a corruption case.

The bureau had written to the Lok Sabha Speaker two years ago, seeking permission to prosecute Sharief on charges of dishonestly arranging the foreign visits of some officials while he was railway minister in 1995.

The officials concerned were Sharief’s then additional private secretary B.N. Nagesh, stenographers S.M. Mastan and V. Murlidharan and personal driver C.H. Samaullah. Sharief is now a member of the Lok Sabha.

The Parliament secretariat reportedly replied to the CBI last month, saying there was no need to get the Lok Sabha Speaker’s permission as he was not Sharief’s appointing authority when he became a Cabinet minister.

CBI sources said according to the Prevention of Corruption Act 1998, only a competent authority empowered to appoint or remove a public servant could give permission for prosecution.

The secretariat’s reply notwithstanding, the bureau’s long wait to chargesheet Sharief is far from over. The CBI has to resume its hunt for seeking permission, bureau sources said.

The controversy first broke when Sharief took his staff to London where he underwent treatment for a heart ailment at Princess Grace Hospital in August 1995. The assistants were taken along to help Sharief with domestic chores, but on record their work was registered as special assignment.

All four staff members, said CBI officials, were helping Sharief in running his kitchen or attending phone calls or as hospital attendants.

When Sharief was questioned by the CBI, the former minister said he went to London for heart treatment after obtaining the Prime Minister’s permission. According to sources, Sharief, however, refused to acknowledge that he took his four staff members along in gross violation of rules. Sharief said he did not remember as he was unwell at the time.

Sharief allegedly abused his official powers by getting two public sector undertakings, RITES and Ircon, to foot the bills of the four staffers’ travel and stay. Both PSUs were under the railway ministry’s control.

Sharief allegedly forced Ircon to take Nagesh on deputation and similarly managed to get RITES to accept Mastan and Murlidharan on deputation. The alleged intention was to take the three abroad.

All three had put up for more than a fortnight in a London hotel where Sharief also checked in. CBI sources said their air fare and daily allowances were paid by the PSUs.

The stenographers, on their return, filed with the railway ministry a report on their London trip, listing what they did there. The two, along with Nagesh, were then returned to their parent organisation, the Railway Board. The air fare of driver Samaullah, a relative of Sharief’s, was allegedly borne by Ircon, sources said.

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