SC puts CBI in the dock over sharing coal scam report

In a huge embarrassment to the Congress govt, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ridiculed the CBI for sharing its probe report on the coal block allocations with the Law Minister and several top ranking officials in the PMO.

Updated: Apr 30, 2013, 12:54 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: In a huge embarrassment to the Congress government, the Supreme Court on Tuesday ridiculed the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for sharing its probe report on the coal block allocations with the Law Minister and several top ranking officials in the PMO.

Terming the CBI’s act as a "massive breach of trust" and a matter that has "shaken its foundation", the Supreme Court asserted that the central investigating agency must be "liberated" and not be controlled by "political masters".

Throwing uncomfortable questions before the CBI, the apex court asked it to explain why it kept the Supreme Court in the dark about the disclosure of its probe report with the government.

Taking a serious note of the CBI affidavit on the coal block allocation scam, the Supreme Court said "suppression" of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is "not ordinary".

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

Asking the CBI to file a fresh affidavit by May 6, the Supreme Court asked the probe agency to explain whether the Law Minister is entitled to seek such a confidential report from the agency.

The apex court also asked it to tell on whose instruction the changes were made by the CBI in the coal; scam probe report, which was later submitted to the Supreme Court.

“Why the CBI did not disclose earlier that its probe report on the coal block allocations was shared with the government, “the court asked.

The apex court strong observations in the case comes nearly a week after
the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha filed a two-page affidavit in the apex court and 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".

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 ASG Raval shot off a letter to Attorney General GE 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.

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.

(With PTI inputs)