Coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal
New Delhi, Aug. 27: The government today virtually admitted in the Supreme Court that seven of the forty-odd files the CBI has sought in connection with the coal allocation probe were not available with it, but efforts were on to trace them.
The Centre’s affidavit came on a day the CBI too filed one, saying that in a court-monitored probe as in the coal controversy case, the agency should be allowed to probe cases in states without permission from the government concerned.
The court, which is hearing two public interest petitions on alleged illegal allocation of coal blocks between 1993 and 2010, had earlier described the CBI as a “caged parrot” and vowed to liberate it from political and other extraneous influences.
In a sworn affidavit, the Union government said an inter-ministerial panel of senior officers had been formed to track down the seven files within a month. The seven are among 43 files the CBI had sought.
“Of the 43 files, 21 have already been handed over to the CBI, 15 are available for handing over and (the) CBI has been requested to collect (them)…” the Centre said, adding that efforts were “being made to locate” the remaining seven.
The Centre also said it had so far handed over 769 files, documents and other papers to the CBI.
The government’s affidavit regarding the 43 files came in the backdrop of allegations that crucial files related to the allocations had disappeared. It had prompted criticism that high-level politicians and bureaucrats were being shielded.
The Centre said the additional secretary (coal) would chair the inter-ministerial committee that has representatives from the departments of power, steel and industrial policy and promotion as well as from Coal India and the Central Mine Planning and Development Institute.
“It is possible that many of these papers are available in the records of the various ministries/ departments and government bodies. The mandate given to the committee is to examine and review non-availability of any file or document and suggest appropriate action for locating the same. The committee has held three meetings so far and requested the members to locate the copies of documents/applications in their respective organisations.
“The committee has been directed to hold meetings on a weekly basis and issue directions to all concerned to locate the documents in a fixed time-frame. The committee has also been directed to accomplish the exercise as far as possible in a month’s time,” the Centre said.
In its affidavit, the CBI, which had been earlier asked by the court to come up with suggestions to make the agency autonomous, said in court-monitored criminal cases there was no need to seek prior sanction of states to start investigations. Under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, which governs the functioning of the CBI, the agency has to seek permission from states concerned to start a probe.
The CBI’s assertion goes against the Union government’s stand. At the last hearing on July 17, attorney-general G.E. Vahanvati had asserted that prior sanction of states was a must.
The CBI has also sought for its director the status of an “ex officio secretary to the Government of India” so that the officer can function more independently.