The CBI is considering questioning Central Vigilance Commissioner Pradeep Kumar in the coal blocks allotment case in connection with decisions taken by the coal ministry in 2006 when he was posted there as special secretary.
Indications of the CBI’s plan come a day after Kumar requested the Supreme Court to allow him to withdraw from examining 20 cases in connection with the alleged irregularities in coal blocks allotment as he had worked in the coal ministry between 2003 and 2006.
It was the CVC who first referred the coal blocks allotment case to the CBI in 2012 and officers in the investigating agency said Kumar had been “sensitised’’ about the need for answers from him on issues pertaining to his three-year stint in the coal ministry.
Kumar served as additional secretary and special secretary in the ministry.
“The response we got from the commission is that such questioning, in person or through a questionnaire, may be embarrassing but we will soon take a final decision,’’ a senior officer said.
Sources said that since the CVC enjoys powers of superintendence over the CBI in all corruption cases, the need to question him in this case indeed presented a piquant situation. Asked about questioning the CVC himself being on the cards, CBI director Ranjit Sinha told The Indian Express: “We are seized of the matter and will resolve it shortly. We are committed to the Supreme Court to complete all coal allocation matters in as short a time as possible.’’
The possibility of Kumar being questioned in the coal case comes weeks after the CBI sent a set of questions to the Prime Minister’s former principal secretary, T K A Nair, and also quizzed other PMO officials. The agency has since given a snapshot of their testimonies to the Supreme Court.
Speculation about the CVC being questioned in the case has been doing the rounds since 2012 as Kumar had chaired a crucial screening committee meeting in the coal ministry on September 7, 2006, at which 15 coal blocks applications were examined.
CVC sources said Kumar had only chaired the meeting since the coal secretary happened to be out of Delhi and that no final decision was taken that day. He was also present at another screening committee meeting held on September 22, 2006 but this was chaired by the coal secretary.
These facts have been presented to the SC by the CVC himself and the court has been informed that the other two vigilance commissioners will henceforth examine all coal blocks allotment matters. The apex court had during a previous hearing chided the CVC for being a “mute spectator’’ to the complex probe and routed 20 cases to it where there was a difference of opinion within the CBI on whether preliminary enquiries should pursued or closed.