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CBI FIR against Jayanthi Natarajan over irregular green clearances: What we know so far

The Central Bureau of Investigation has raided premises of former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan in Chennai in connection to an FIR registered against her related to alleged irregularities in clearances of some files in 2013 in Jharkhand when the Congress-led UPA was in power.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 10, 2017 12:27:05 pm
Jayanthi Natarajan, Rahul Gandhi, Jayanthi Natarajan resignation, Jayanthi Natarajan quits, Sonia Gandhi, Jayanthi Natarajan, who was Minister of State for Environment (Independence Charge) in 2012, has been booked under for criminal conspiracy and abuse of office. (File photo)

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) carried out searches at former environment minister Jayanthi Natarajan’s Chennai residence in connection with an FIR registered against her related to alleged irregularities in clearances of some files in 2013 in Jharkhand when the Congress-led UPA was in power. The central probing agency also carried out searches at multiple other locations on premises linked to others names in the FIR. Umang Kejriwal who was then the managing director of Electrosteel Casting Limited, the firm ECL and unidentified persons were also named in the FIR.

Here is what we know about the case:

1. CBI carried out searches in multiple locations in Delhi, Kolkata, Ranchi and Sundergarh (Odisha). The case in question relates to an environment nod given in 2012. It allowed for a forest land diversion in Saranda in Jharkhand’s Singhbhum district.

2. The clearance was alleged to be in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act. Natarajan, 63, served as Minister of State for Environment with Independent charge at the time. From June 2013, it was gradually released that a series of clearances for projects were provided despite objection.

3. Jayanthi Natarajan has been booked under the Indian Penal Code Section 120B for criminal conspiracy and under the Prevention of Corruption Act for abuse of her official position. The probing agency had revealed that the Director General, Forests had advised against giving the nod, nevertheless, it was provided.

4. Jayanthi Natarajan left the Congress party in 2015 amid the Gandhi family leading the Congress. She had accused Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi of forcing her into making decisions related to environmental clearances. According to the CBI, this effectively started a project that was brought to a stop by previous minister in charge Jairam Ramesh.

5. The CBI FIR reveals that Jayanthi Natarajan’s approval was for diverting 55.79 hectares of forest land to be allowed for use by ECL for non-forestry purposes. It said that the previous Minister of State had rejected the proposal. However, the nod was given by Natarajan without any change in circumstance.

6. The case can be traced back to over a decade from now. The CBI FIR also shows that a proposal from ECL for lease of 192.5 hectares of land for mining purpose in Saranda forest was forwarded by the Jharkhand government to the Centre in 2005. The company’s plans included setting up of a steel plant.

7. Another proposal for 55.79 hectares from the earlier sought land to be diverted for non-forest use was forwarded by the state to the Centre in 2008. The Advisory Committee had rejected the proposal on the grounds that the sought land formed a section of the core zone of Singhbhum elephant reserve and hence it was critical to wildlife conservation.

8. Multiple rejections followed in 2009 under Jairam Ramesh who cancelled any further reconsiderations and another from the advisory committee after ECL wrote to the prime minister’s office in 2010.

9. Jayanthi Natarajan assumed charge of the ministry on July 13, 2011. She gave the nod to the project in under seven months of her tenure after holding meetings with several stakeholders including with the company’s then managing director Kejriwal.

10. She was removed from her position as Mos in December 2013 and her successor Veerappa Moily revealed that Nataraj and her office had been holding back 350 files.

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