Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik’s name has surfaced in an intervention application (IA) filed in Supreme Court on Monday regarding a CBI probe into allocation of captive coalfields by the Central government from 1993 to 2010.
The applicant, Vaibhav Verma, requested to be included as a third party in the matter and stated that CBI is not probing the case “expeditiously”.
BJD MP and Supreme Court lawyer Pinaki Mishra said, “It relates to a time (1998) when Naveen Patnaik held additional charge of Coal Ministry for about a couple of months. He had no role to play in allocation of coal blocks.”
Verma cited a case related to coal allocation for Nagpur-based Central Collieries Ltd in 1998 and stated that the company was allocated Maharashtra’s Tekli Jena Belloras coal block that year, even though it was registered only in 1999. Citing a media report, the applicant claims a case was registered in the matter in 2014.
According to Verma, while CBI interrogated Patnaik in 2017, as he held the Coal portfolio in 1998, the agency is yet to complete the probe. His application urges the court to issue an “appropriate” time-frame to CBI to conclude its investigation, as “witnesses can be won over and evidence tampered with” often with passage of time in “high-profile financial offences”.
Maintaining that the Centre has “repeatedly” attempted to rope in Patnaik in the case, Mishra said, “About six months ago, a similar application for impleadment was thrown out by Justice Madan Lokur of Supreme Court. The judge has retired and a fresh attempt is being made at bench hunting. It will be met robustly (in court).”
Verma’s counsel S S Hooda told The Indian Express, “In the initial IA, we had sought Patnaik to be interrogated. The court said it was seized of the matter and did not need guidance on who should be interrogated. So we withdrew the IA. Thereafter, Patnaik was interrogated (by CBI). So our IA was vindicated.”
He added, “This IA has a different focus. After interrogation, why is CBI not completing its probe?”
Union minister and senior BJP leader Dharmendra Pradhan questioned why Mishra was jumping the gun before facts emerge. Odisha Congress chief Niranjan Patnaik has also questioned the delay in completing the probe.