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Govt vetted coal scam report,CBI will tell Supreme Court

Law Minister Ashwani Kumar summoned CBI chief; report was changed,toned down after meeting.

Written by Maneesh Chhibber | New Delhi |
April 13, 2013 3:11:34 am

Note: The story was first published in the April 13,2013 edition of The Indian Express. For the epaper link click here: Govt vetted coal scam report,CBI will tell SC

The UPA government could be in for some major embarrassment in the coal blocks allotment scandal as the CBI is learnt to be inclined to inform the Supreme Court that the controversial probe status report it submitted last month had been vetted by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Prime Minister’s Office officials.

Sources told The Indian Express that senior CBI officials,including director Ranjit Sinha,were summoned by Kumar days before the status report was filed.

During the lengthy meeting,also attended by some officials of the law ministry,several amendments in the status report were suggested and some also incorporated by the CBI.

“We resisted as much as we could,but yes,some toning down was done following the meeting,” a CBI officer present at the meeting in Shastri Bhavan said.

Sources also told The Indian Express that the CBI’s status report was similarly “vetted’’ by senior PMO officials. During that meeting,a team of CBI officers,which did not include Sinha,was present although it is not clear whether more changes were made in the report at this meeting.

The CBI’s stand in the report,submitted to the apex court on March 8,differs from that of the government. The report pointed out irregularities in coal blocks allotment made in 2006-09 during UPA-1,and said it was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves.

The government had refuted the CBI’s findings in the court on March 12,with Attorney General G E Vahanvati saying the CBI could not be the “final word” on it.

But in an unprecedented move,the Supreme Court had asked Sinha to clarify through an affidavit if the status report had been examined by the government as Vahanvati,when asked,told the court he had not gone through the report.

A bench of Justices R M Lodha,J Chelameswar and Madan B Lokur had directed Sinha to file an affidavit affirming that the status report submitted by the agency to the court in a sealed cover had not been “shared with the political executive”.

It had asked the director to state in his affidavit that the report “was vetted by him and nothing contained therein has been shared with the political executive”.

The court had also directed Sinha to state in the affidavit “that the same procedure will be followed in respect of other subsequent status reports that may be filed before this court”.

The order has put the CBI in a quandary due to the controversial nature of the status report. Despite several recent instances of the CBI being seen as a puppet of the government,both the agency and the UPA have repeatedly claimed that the CBI is completely independent when investigating politically sensitive cases.

Following the court directive in this connection,the CBI is also trying to ascertain from the Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT) if senior PMO officials fall in the category of what the apex court has described as “political executive”.

What may compound the problems for the government and its senior law officers is that at the last hearing,Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal had made a unequivocal statement in court that the status report had not been shared with anybody from the political executive.

Sources also said that following the directive from the apex court,Sinha has held consultations with the Attorney General on how his affidavit should be worded.

Reached for his comment,Law Minister Kumar said: “The court has asked the CBI to file an affidavit which it will do. How can I preempt what the CBI Director will say?”

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