The Delhi High Court on Tuesday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to bring the original record and investigation files related to the preliminary enquiry (PE) and case registered against the alleged 'artificial over-pricing' of coal imports being done by various power generation companies. The court has directed the probe agency to bring these files on January 31, the next date of hearing.
The court was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) moved by non-government organisation Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), which has sought a court-monitored probe by a special investigative team (SIT) into the alleged over-pricing of imported coal. In its petition, the NGO has said that in March 2016, 40 power companies had been identified by the Department of Revenue Intelligence for importing over-priced coal from Indonesia.
These companies, the NGO in its petition alleged, include NTPC, the Adani group and the Essar group.
CPIL's lawyer Prashant Bhushan had filed a petition in February. In its petition, the NGO claims that invoices generated by foreign subsidiaries of Indian power companies inflated the price of coal and other equipment required for power generation by as much as 400 per cent. The illegally inflated price, the petition alleges, is then cleared by parent power companies based in India, who subsequently pass it on to consumers in the form of higher electricity tariffs.
"The modus operandi is identical in all these cases. The coal or power equipment, even though (these are) shipped directly to India, but its invoicing is routed through a different company incorporated abroad, which is directly owned and controlled by the promoters of the project in India," the NGO had alleged in its petition.
The DRI had in 2016 issued show-cause notices to Anil Dhirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG), the Adani Group, and the Essar Group in two separate cases pertaining to alleged inflated coal import prices. It had also asked these companies as to why they should not be penalised for violating norms.
While the DRI notice to ADAG was for Rs 3.5 billion, the notices to Adani Group and Essar Group were for Rs 10 billion and Rs 3.3 billion, respectively. The DRI probed about 40 companies in all for alleged over-valuation of coal imports amounting to Rs 290 billion.