MoS Rao got coal norms violated for Jindal firms: CBI

As minister of state for coal,Dasari Narayana Rao allegedly asked the government’s top coal mine allotment committee to overrule criteria

Written by Priyadarshi Siddhanta | New Delhi | Published: June 14, 2013 1:16:41 am

As minister of state for coal,Dasari Narayana Rao allegedly asked the government’s top coal mine allotment committee to overrule criteria such as net worth and status of land acquisition to favour two companies of Congress MP Naveen Jindal,the CBI has claimed.

The agency filed a fresh FIR Tuesday in the coal blocks allotment scam and accused Jindal’s firms of bribing Rao and misrepresenting information to obtain coal blocks.

“To influence the decision of the screening committee in favour of JSPL and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Ltd which had not been recommended by the ministry of power… Rao wrote to the coal secretary to instead evaluate various applicants as per the past practices,” the FIR alleges.

HC Gupta,the then coal secretary and chairman of the screening committee,is said to have acceded to the minister’s note and allotted a coal block in Jharkhand to the two Jindal firms. Since there was no “past practice” laid down,the committee allegedly decided to go ahead with the minister’s wish.

Gupta resigned from the Competition Commission after the FIR was filed.

The minister later turned down a representation from Bhushan Energy requesting a 50 per cent share in the coal block. He “justified the decision of the screening committee” recommending the award of the coal block to JSPL and GSIPL,the FIR says.

The FIR is the latest in the CBI probe into the coal blocks allotment to private parties by the coal ministry during 2006-09. The CBI said both Jindal firms had applied for the coal block in January 2007,claiming they had decided to set up power projects of 1,000 MW each at Patratu and Dumka in Jharkhand.

To bolster their claim for the block,both the firms made presentations before the 35th screening committee of the coal ministry on June 20,2007. Since the firms would have trouble qualifying for the allotment on the strength of their net worth,land acquisition status,water linkages and allied criteria,Rao allegedly wrote a note to Gupta on July 27.

Both Jindal and Rao have been booked under various provisions of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act. The CBI is said to have found that the power ministry did not recommend allocation of any block to JSPL or GSIPL “as they did not meet the criteria of preparation adopted by the central electricity authority”.

The CBI observes that in June 20,2007,the Jharkhand government recommended three firms for the block including Lanco Infratech besides JSPL and GSIPL,but 10 days later the state made a fresh recommendation only for the two Jindal firms.

A source in the government said the investigating agency insisted that Jindal must return from his overseas trip to join the inquiry.

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