Tuesday, April 30, 2013

CBI's independent position must be restored: SC on coalgate

In a big embarrassment to the government in the coalgate case, the Supreme Court on Tuesday termed as "very disturbing" the CBI affidavit on sharing its report with the law minister and others and slammed the agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue.

Hearing the coal blocks allocation scam case in a packed courtroom, the bench said "suppression" of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is "not ordinary".

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha observed that there was a "very disturbing feature" in the affidavit filed on April 26 by CBI director Ranjit Sinha and the agency must be restored to its independent position.

Sinha, in his two-page affidavit filed in the apex court, had said that the agency's status report on coal allocation scam was "shared" with law minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of PMO and coal ministry "as desired by them".

The apex court said that sharing of information with the government about the probe into the scam has "shaken the entire process" and CBI need not take instructions from "political masters" on their probe.

"Our first exercise will be to liberate CBI from political interference," the bench said.

The SC asked the CBI what authority did the law minister and joint secretaries in the PMO and coal ministry had to summon status report of an ongoing probe looked into by the court.

The SC wanted to know from the CBI director by Monday who others had seen the report apart from the minister and two joint secretaries in the PMO and coal ministry. The apex court asked the CBI to file a fresh affidavit.

The SC has put the next hearing in the case on May 8.

The SC also sought details of the officers of the CBI engaged in investigating coal scam and did not approve of the supervising officer Ravi Kant being allowed to be transferred to the Intelligence Bureau.

The apex court also issued a warning to the coal ministry after the CBI said that it was not getting relevant materials regarding the coal block allocation from the ministry.

In his affidavit, the CBI director had said, "I submit that the draft of the same (status report) was shared with law minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister's Office and ministry of coal as desired by them."

The CBI director had also assured the apex court that the agency will not share further status reports in this case with any member of the political executive.

Sinha's affidavit had contradicted the claim made by additional solicitor general Haren Raval on behalf of CBI on March 12 that the probe report in the scam has not been shared with any member of the government and it has only been shared with the apex court after being vetted by the CBI director.

The affidavit was filed in compliance with the Supreme Court's order which, in an unprecedented move on March 12, had directed the CBI director to assure the court that the status report in the coalgate scam is not being shared with the government.

Today's hearing came a day after Raval shot off a letter to attorney general G E Vahanvati in which he alleged that he has been made a "scapegoat" in the matter.

Raval is also believed to have accused Vahanvati of trying to interfere in CBI's probe report.

Earlier, the CBI and the Centre had clashed over the coalgate scam. The agency had told the court that there have been "arbitrary allotments without scrutiny" in the coal blocks allocation during the UPA-I tenure.

The government had refuted its findings saying that the "CBI is not the final word on this."

In the status report filed by CBI on March 8, the agency had said that the coal block allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was given by the coal ministry in giving coal blocks to them.

Meanwhile, Congress core group is meeting to chalk out a plan to deal with the crisis.

The CBI officials are also engaged in an emergency meeting to discuss the SC observations.

(With inputs from PTI)

No comments:

Post a Comment