`CBI to tell SC that govt tried to vet coal scam report`

The CBI will inform the Supreme Court that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and PMO officials tried to interfere in the coal blocks allocations probe status report.

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation will inform the Supreme Court that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Prime Minister`s Office officials tried to interfere in the coal blocks allocations probe status report before it was submitted to the apex court, sources in the investigative agency said on Sunday.

A report in a newspaper said that senior CBI officers, including its director Ranjit Sinha, were summoned by Kumar days before the status report was filed.

During the meeting with Kumar, several amendments in the status report were suggested and some also incorporated by the CBI, the newspaper report said.

Calling the UPA government a "rogue", the BJP on Saturday accused it of pressuring the CBI to "save" Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and demanded a Special Investigation Team (SIT) probe into the alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks.

The Congress said the investigative agency has been "working independently" and held a meeting on Saturday evening on related issues.

Reacting to the report, BJP leader Sushma Swaraj said this was a "very serious matter".

"This is evidence of the government`s pressure on the CBI to save the Prime Minister," Sushma Swaraj said on Twitter.

Top Congress leaders, including Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Congress Chief Sonia Gandhi, met last evening to take stock of the situation following the report.

The Law Minister, it is learnt, was summoned to the meeting of the core group to explain his role in the alleged vetting of the investigating agency`s status report.

BJP leader Arun Jaitley told reporters that the newspaper report showed that the government would not allow the CBI to carry out its work with honesty.

He termed the UPA government a "rogue".

"The CBI`s image of an independent agency is now completely demolished and dismantled. The CBI cannot go to the root of the matter and find the truth, and even if some honest officer tries to find the truth, the UPA is a rogue government which will not allow it to act independently," Jaitley said.

"Therefore the system will have to seriously consider whether a SIT must take over the administration and investigation of coal scam," he said.

Jaitley said the search for truth has now been interfered with, and this was being done at the level of minister and PMO officials, raising serious questions.

The BJP leader said that interference in the CBI`s work has been prohibited by an apex court ruling.

"The coal scam clearly shows that allocation of coal was tainted, and it was a case of nepotism. Power plants of the country are starved of coal and favourites of this government were allocated coal mines, and actual mining has not begun," he said.

Jaitley said the government wants to dilute its own guilt and owes an explanation.

"Persons named in the report should publicly speak whether this is true or otherwise. The original unaltered report of the CBI must be made public and also placed before the Supreme Court," he said.

CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury also attacked the UPA government following the news report and said the party would raise the matter in parliament.

Sriprakash Jaiswal, who was the coal minister in the UPA-II government, refused to comment on the controversy.

India`s official auditor had last year revealed that the lack of transparency in the allocation of coal blocks to private players resulted in the loss of a whopping Rs 1.85 lakh crore (USD 37 billion) to the exchequer as on March 11, 2011.

The audit report does not directly indict the Prime Minister or his office. But during the time these mining blocks were allotted, the coal portfolio was held by Manmohan Singh (between July 2004 and May 2009).

Congress spokesperson Raashid Alvi refuted the BJP`s charges that the CBI was working under pressure, saying the investigative agency has been functioning independently.

"CBI is not under any pressure and is working independently," Alvi told reporters.

He said the matter relating to coal block allocation was in court.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) also demanded a SIT probe into the coal block allocations and demanded the resignations of the Prime Minister, Law Minister and the Attorney General.

A statement by the party said that the Attorney General was present in the meeting at the Law Minister`s office "where the report was discussed and diluted".

It also claimed that DIG of CBI, who was in charge of investigation, was transferred soon after the last hearing was held by the apex court.

"We also once again demand that the CBI should be made independent of the government by placing it under an independent Lokpal," the statement said.

(With IANS inputs)