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Govt interfered in CBI probe into coal scam: SC told

April 15, 2013 18:24 IST

A non-government organisation on Monday moved the Supreme Court seeking a special investigation team probe into alleged "blatant" interference by the Centre into the Central Bureau of Investigation probe of the coal block allocation scam.

In its interim application, NGO Common Cause submitted that the alleged "blatant interference" by the government is not only unlawful and a criminal offence, it amounts to contempt of court and the same has to be probed by a SIT. It alleged that the CBI was not fit to probe the scam, as the agency at the instance of the government has "changed and diluted" a status report which it was to file before the apex court. It also been alleged that law officers of the government attempted to mislead the court by stating that they had not seen the status report, when the same had been shown to them by the CBI.

The NGO also submitted that the CBI officer who was supervising the investigation and who had filed its affidavit was replaced during the course of the probe. It suggested that appointing a retired judge to head the SIT would help the court to monitor the case and add to the credibility of the probe by insulating it from political and corporate influences.

Earlier, advocate M L Sharma on whose petition the CBI probe was ordered into the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocation, mentioned before a bench headed by Justice R M Lodha the issue of reported interference of government in the probe. The bench said since the matter is listed for hearing on April 30 there was no need of any indulgence by the court at the moment. It gave him liberty to file an application on the issue, which could be taken up for hearing on the scheduled date of hearing.

Common Cause, which filed the application through advocate Prashant Bhushan, cited the example of appointment of retired apex court judge Justice B N Agarwal in the Sahara case to supervise refund of investors' money as well as actions taken by market regulator SEBI to enforce the court's directions.

In its interim application, the NGO alleged that while the CBI had told the apex court that its status report was not shown to anyone. "The report had been seen by the government before it was filed in this court, the same had been vetted and its observations had been diluted by the CBI at the instance of the government," it alleged.

A PIL filed by the NGO and various members of civil society including former CEC N Gopalaswami, ex-Navy chief L Ramdas and former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian and advocate M L Sharma seeking a SIT probe into the scam.

The CBI in its status report, filed on March 8, had said the coal block allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies, which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves.

On March 12, the apex court had directed the CBI director to file an affidavit that the status report submitted by the agency on March 8 was "vetted by him and not shared with political executives" and the same will be followed in future. The apex court had also indicated that entire allocation might be cancelled if no legal procedure was followed and directed the government to explain why a small group of companies have been "picked and chosen" for allocation of coal blocks out of a large number of companies that applied for it.

The agency had also placed before the apex court a list of the companies and their directors against whom FIR has so far been lodged. It had said it was not revealing all information of its probe in order to "preserve confidentiality and integrity of the inquiry".

The report was filed in response to an apex court order which had directed it to file a comprehensive reply on alleged irregularities in coal blocks allocation.

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