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Coal scam: The MILLION dollar question posed to CBI

By Sheela Bhatt
May 01, 2013 00:40 IST
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In a slow-moving justice delivery system, the fact that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar is still in the government is not surprising. In the sound and fury of the war between Attorney General G E Vahanvati and Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal, the most important factor is not being given enough attention.

In the ongoing drama around the coal scam, the most important question is what were the changes Ashwani Kumar wanted to make in Central Bureau of Investigation’s draft of status report on coal mines allotment investigation that compelled him to call such illegal, unethical and unauthorised meeting?

Who were the people he was trying to save? Were there any names of politicians or mines owners deleted from the draft report of the CBI?

The Supreme Court, fortunately, has given enough importance to the angle. In the order passed on Tuesday by a three-judge bench, it has asked the CBI to provide certain details.

The SC order says, “ In the affidavit now filed by the director, CBI on April 26, 2013, it is stated that the draft of the status report dated March 8, 2013 was shared with the  minister of law and Justice as desired by him prior to its submission before this court and it was also shared with joint secretary level officers each of the Prime Minister's Office and the ministry of coal as desired by them but nothing has been said in the affidavit whether or not changes were made in the draft report and, if yes, at whose instance and the extent of changes and whether besides the three persons mentioned in paragraph 4 of  the affidavit, the draft report was shared with any other person in that meeting.”

The Supreme Court has asked the ‘extent of changes’, and one will have to wait and see if all the changes made are reported back or not by the CBI.

The source close to the senior officer who attended the meeting and who is an important functionary of the government claims that during the meeting the attempt was made to shield a powerful industrialist who has been allocated huge chunk of coal mines since 2004 by the United Progressive Alliance government.

The said industrialist was worried about his name making it into CBI's status report because he has allegedly invested millions of rupees in some mines. The said industrialist has mines in Chhattisgarh and Odisha.

In fact, the CBI’s 26 April affidavit and even Rawal’s letter to Vahanvati doesn’t address the main issue. Rawal's explosion, through the letter, is limited to Vahnavati's conduct and double-standards.

Why did Ashwani Kumar so brazenly summoned CBI officers and the law officers? What was his compulsion to flout the rules? Was he trying to help the vulnerable parties?

Was it only to shield Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as it's alleged, or was it also to shield some mines owners? The more important question is will the CBI quote those names which were taken out from the draft report if indeed they were? Was the CBI advised by the law minister to not include certain names even in a draft report?

The Supreme Court has taken a stand to first gather more facts and then proceed further. It has adopted the long route to justice by giving time to the people who are under the public scanner.

Now, the ball is in the CBI’s court. It will have to speak the truth and share what exactly transpired in that meeting. Was there any criminal conduct done in the meeting by any member present when some possible accused of coal-scam got favoured treatment? 

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Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi
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