Coal scam: CBI files case diary in sealed cover

The CBI on Thursday filed the case diary and crime files in a sealed cover in a coal blocks allocation case related to Hindalco before a special court, complying with its order.

The court has now fixed the matter for consideration of the CBI’s closure report filed in the case for December 12.

Two days after the court had directed it to furnish the case diary of the matter, the CBI submitted two bundles of documents in a sealed cover before the court.

“In compliance of the court’s order, we are filing the crime folder as well as the case diary,” senior Public Prosecutor V.K. Sharma told special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar.

The judge said, “IO (Investigating officer) states that he has brought both the case diary and crime files in a sealed cover. He is further being told to assist the court in looking into the relevant papers. The matter is now adjourned for consideration on December 12.”

During the brief hearing, the court said if there is still any clarification to be sought in the matter, it will ask the agency and then pass order on the closure report.

The court was hearing a case in which an FIR was lodged against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, ex-Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh and others relating to allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha in 2005 to Hindalco. The CBI had later on filed closure report in the case.

During the hearing on November 25, the CBI had come in for some tough questioning from the court which had asked why the agency did not question former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was also holding the Coal portfolio between 2005 and 2009.

The court’s observations had came after the CBI submitted that though initially it felt Singh’s examination was required, later it was found to be not necessary.

At the end of the hearing, the court had summoned the case diary and crime files in a sealed cover and had posted the matter for on Thursday.

Dr. Singh was holding the coal portfolio when Mr. Birla’s firm Hindalco was allocated coal blocks in Orissa’s Talabira II & III in 2005.

The FIR against Mr. Birla, Mr. Parakh and others was registered in October 2013 by the CBI which had alleged that Mr. Parakh had reversed his decision to reject coal block allocation to Birla’s firm Hindalco within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances” and shown “undue favours”.

The CBI had booked Mr. Birla, Mr. Parakh and other Hindalco officials under various IPC sections, including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on part of government officials.

Earlier on November 10, the CBI had told the court that there was “prima facie enough material” to proceed against some private parties and public servants in the case.

The Supreme Court-appointed special public prosecutor (SPP) R.S. Cheema for the CBI had submitted before the judge that the court can take cognisance of the offences mentioned in the closure report as there was prima facie “evidence against the accused to show their involvement”.

Coalgate: SC refuses to hear plea of power producers seeking re-hearing

The Supreme Court on Friday refused to give any further hearing on the pleas of companies which were allocated coal blocks by the government by a process that the court has deemed illegal.

A bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha turned down the pleas of power generating companies that they should be re-heard in case the apex court decides to cancel the allotments.

The bench has already reserved its order on the fate of 218 coal blocks allocations which were declared by it as illegal and arbitrary.

The apex court had on September 9 reserved its order after the Centre advocated their cancellation while the allotees blamed the government for irregularities and demanded setting up of a committee to go into each of the allocations.

The Coal Producers Association, Sponge Iron Manufacturers Association and Independent Power Producers Association of India and some private entities had opposed the stand of the government for not favouring the constitution of any committee to look into consequences of the August 25 judgement of apex court.

They had deprecated the Centre’s stand that “cancellation of coal block allocation is a natural consequence of the judgement” by saying that it would lead to total disaster and ultimate suffering for the man on street and rural population, who are already facing a power crisis.

The bench had, however, said, “Government is only articulating its position” and it would “not be a fair way” of dealing with the matter as “screening committee meetings speak for themselves that no procedure was followed”.

Govt. leaves it to SC to decide fate of coal blocks

The Government left it to the Supreme Court to do what it thought best about the 218 illegal coal block allocations, including 40 operational blocks, and said it was “not insisting on any particular course of action”.

The Ministry of Coal filed an affidavit on Monday, signalling the Supreme Court to be untrammelled by commercial concerns and cancel all 218 coal block allocations found illegal, if it serves the purpose of law.

It clarified that Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s submission during the September 1 court hearing to spare 40 operational coal blocks and six others, which are ready to be functional, was just a passing on of “information”.

The government urged the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the 218 coal blocks “quickly” as the country was going through a severe power crisis.

It seconded the AG’s submission on September 1 that a quick decision by the court would help the government re-allocate the coal blocks in a transparent manner and start production.

In a judgment on August 25, a bench led by Chief Justice of India R.M. Lodha had stopped short of cancelling the 218 coal blocks allocated illegally from 1993 to 2011.

The court, concerned about the impact of its judgment on coal production and industry, had then scheduled a hearing on September 1 to debate the verdict’s aftermath. It was during this hearing that Mr. Rohatgi asked the court whether it could consider sparing the 46 coal blocks to feed the country’s power plants.

But the court had responded by asking if it would not be better to start afresh.

Production figures

The government’s affidavit on Monday cleared the air, dispassionately saying that the “Central government was not insisting on any particular course of action”. It, however, stated for informative purposes that the 46 coal blocks are estimated to produce 50 million tonnes of coal in 2014–15.

The affidavit said the 40 allottees, if allowed to continue, could be made to pay an additional levy of Rs. 295 per tonne as suggested by the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report. It suggested that they could also be mandated to enter into a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) with State utilities/DISCOMS to benefit the public.

The government said two of the 40 coal blocks were allocated to an Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP), not declared illegal by the August 25 judgment.

Six ready-to-use coal blocks had been cleared under Rule 9 of the Colliery Control Rules, 2004 to start operations, the affidavit said. The next hearing is scheduled on September 9.

No need of government sanction to probe public servants: SC

supreme courtThe Supreme Court on Tuesday held that the approval of the Central Government was not necessary under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act (which governs the Central Bureau of Information) for investigation and prosecution of senior officials where inquiry/investigation into the crime under the Prevention of Corruption Act was being monitored by the Court.

Giving this ruling, a three-Judge bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurian Joseph said, “This position holds good in cases which are directed by the Court to be registered and the inquiry/investigation thereon is actually being monitored by this Court.” Justice Lokur gave concurrent but different reasons.

Passing orders in the petitions filed by advocate Manohar Lal Sharma and others in the coal block allocation scam case, the Bench said, “The fact that the investigation is monitored by the Constitutional court is itself an assurance that investigation/inquiry by the CBI is not actuated with ulterior motive to harass any public servant and the investigating agency performs its duties and discharges its responsibility of fair and impartial investigation uninfluenced by extraneous considerations.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Lodha said, “A proper investigation into crime is one of the essentials of the criminal justice system and an integral facet of rule of law. The investigation by the police under the Cr.P.C. has to be fair, impartial and uninfluenced by external influences. Where investigation into crime is handled by the CBI under the DSPE Act, the same principles apply and CBI as an investigating agency is supposed to discharge its responsibility with competence, promptness, fairness and uninfluenced and unhindered by external influences.

“The abuse of public office for private gain has grown in scope and scale and hit the nation badly. Corruption reduces revenue; it slows down economic activity and holds back economic growth. The biggest loss that may occur to the nation due to corruption is loss of confidence in the democracy and weakening of rule of law. In recent times, there has been concern over the need to ensure that the corridors of power remain untainted by corruption or nepotism and that there is optimum utilization of resources and funds for their intended purposes.

“It is alleged that coal blocks for the subject period have been allocated for extraneous considerations by unknown public servants in connivance with businessmen, industrialists and middlemen. The allocation of coal blocks is alleged to suffer from favouritism, nepotism and pick and choose.

The Comptroller and Auditor General [CAG] in its Performance Audit on allocation of coal blocks and augmentation of coal production has estimated loss to the public exchequer to the tune of about Rs.1.86 lakh crore as on 31.03.2011 for Open-cast mines/Open-cast reserves of Mixed mines while pointing out inadequacies and shortcoming in the allocation.

Our reference to the CAG report, we clarify, does not mean that we have expressed any opinion about its correctness or otherwise. The Court is of the view that a fair, proper and full investigation by the CBI into every accusation by the CBI in respect of allocation of coal blocks shall help in retaining public confidence in the conduct of inquiry/investigation.

Moreover, the Court-monitoring in a matter of huge magnitude such as this shall help in moving the machinery of inquiry/investigation at appropriate pace and its conclusion with utmost expedition without fear or favour.”

(Source: IANS)

Government sanction not needed to probe public servants: SC

supreme courtThe Supreme Court said on Tuesday there was no need for a prior sanction of the central government to launch an inquiry against a public servant in a court-monitored CBI investigation.

Answering in negative on whether central government’s prior sanction under section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act was necessary before a public servant could be proceeded against, the apex court bench of Justice R.M. Lodha and Justice Kurian Joseph, by its majority verdict, said that no such government nod was necessary.

In a concurring order but with different reasoning, Justice Madan B. Lokur too held that no prior government sanction was required to inquire into or investigate a public servant.

The apex court order came on the plea by the CBI contending that there was no need for prior government sanction to inquire a public servant in court-monitored cases.

The question arose in the course of the ongoing hearing by the court in the coal scam.

(Source: IANS)

‘Heart’ of Coalgate report changed: Supreme Court

NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court has questioned the credibility of CBI probe into the coal scam and has asked for a thorough and qualitative investigation.

Expressing strong displeasure at govt’s interference in the Coalgate probe report, according to the apex court said, “the heart of the report was changed on the suggestions of the govt officials.”

“The heart of the report was changed on suggestions of government officials,” the court said in an apparent reference to the raging controversy over the sharing of the draft status report with political executive and joint secretaries in the coal ministry and the PMO.

Raising questions on the independence of CBI, the apex court called it a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice”.

The court making a scathing comment on the functioning of the investigating agency said, “It’s a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot.”

Asking the govt to make CBI impartial, the apex court said it needs to be ensured that the CBI functions free of all external pressures.

If the CBI is not made independent, we will step in, the SC observed.

“Job of CBI is not to interact with government officials but to interrogate to find the truth,” the SC said. The judges remarked that the CBI must know how to stand up against all pulls and pressures by government and its officials.

Commenting on law minister Ashwani Kumar’s role, the apex court said that a minister can ask for a report but can’t interfere with the CBI probe.

The court questioned how the CBI could have regular interactions with the ministry officials.

Slamming the action of joint secretaries who saw the probe report, the SC said, What business does the two joint secretaries have in visiting the CBI office?

Defending his role, attorney general GE Vahanvati said, “My meeting with CBI officials took place only on suggestions of the law minister.”

I have neither asked nor got CBI’s probe report in coal scam,the attorney general said.

The apex court observations came on CBI director Ranjit Sinha’s second affidavit filed on Monday, stating that law minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of the PMO and coal ministry had made changes in the Colagate probe report.

Ranjit Sinha in his nine-page affidavit to SC had given details of series of meetings with Ashwani Kumar, Vahanvati, additional solicitor general Haren Raval and Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla, joint secretaries of the PMO and the coal ministry during which changes in the probe reports were suggested and made by them.



Crucial hearing in coal scam today in Supreme Court

The crucial hearing on Coalgate will take place today (May 8) in the Supreme Court which may pose some tough questions to the Centre following the CBI Director’s affidavit that the Law Minister and senior officials of the PMO and Coal Ministry had made significant changes in the probe report.

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is under attack from the opposition which is demanding his resignation over the issue, could find himself on a more sticky wicket if adverse remarks are made against him by the apex court.

Attorney General G E Vahanvati may find it difficult to justify his earlier claim made in the apex court that he was not aware about the contents of the status report, a statement belied by the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s nine-page affidavit saying that AG had glanced through the report and changes were made in it on his suggestion.

A three judge bench headed by Justice R M Lodha, which had pulled up the CBI for keeping it in the dark about the sharing of status report with government, will go through a second affidavit filed by Sinha giving details of the changes made and at whose instance these were done.

Sinha in his affidavit said that the minister made “certain changes” in the agency’s draft probe report on Coalgate and gave details of series of meetings with Kumar, Vahanvati, Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval and Shatrughna Singh and A K Bhalla, joint secretaries of the PMO and the Coal Ministry during which changes in the probe reports were suggested and made by them.

The CBI version contradicts reports of Kumar’s account that he was not involved in drafting the changes.