The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday filed before the Supreme Court a fresh status report on the alleged coal block allocation scam.
In the report, given in a sealed envelope, CBI is learnt to have said that no instance of criminality was found in nearly 60 coal block allotments. However, distancing himself from specifics, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha told Business Standard: “We have not computed the number of coal blocks with no instance of criminality.”
The status report is likely to be examined by a Supreme Court Bench headed by R M Lodha on Wednesday, when the government has to give its formal reply in the case.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) on Monday deliberated on the issues linked to cancellation of coal blocks but the meeting remained inconclusive. Coal minister Sri Prakash Jaiswal could not attend the meeting and was represented by the ministry’s secretary, S K Srivastava.
According to official sources, the meeting was called to discuss the fate of around 30 blocks allotted to private companies post 2005 but could not come in production. However, a senior official said the government is reviewing over 60 blocks. “Though there is no clarity yet.”
The Centre last week had told the court it would make its stand clear next week on cancelling allocations to private companies done after 2005 but conceded that “in hindsight, we can say something has gone wrong, and some correction is required to be done.” Based on Supreme Court directions, CBI will take a final decision to close the probe in the cases where no criminality is found.
The agency has already told the apex court most of the missing files in the probe have been found. The agency had registered two separate inquiries into this matter. Earlier, CBI had pointed out that filing chargesheets in some cases would be difficult if certain files were not made available by the coal ministry.
Besides, CBI has also updated the court on the status of investigation in 14 cases spanning three other preliminary inquiries. CBI is investigating a total of 195 coal blocks. So far, it has registered 16 First Information Report, including cases against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and Congress MP Naveen Jindal. On the remaining two cases, lodged last week, the agency will apprise the court in its next report.
CBI is also learnt to have told the court its investigation in four-five cases was near completion and legal aspects to proceed further are being looked into. The agency is looking into allocation between 2006 and 2009, those between 1993 and 2004, and projects given under government’s dispensation scheme.
The reports of A-G’s opinion on cancellation of licences had drawn severe criticism from industry. “Any such en masse cancellation will severely hurt coal block allocatees, who had complied with the contractual obligations as specified by the law of that day and will make their assets unviable. This may also put huge distress on the lenders and the banks that have funded these projects. This will have a spiralling effect on the entire economy,” Ficci President Sidharth Birla said.