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Property plea in coal probe

New Delhi, Nov. 26: The Supreme Court today sought the response of the Enforcement Directorate on a plea to attach properties in the coal block allocation probe.

Common Cause, an NGO, has sought the attachments under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

It also wants the ED’s ongoing probe into the financial aspects of the allotments to be monitored by the court in the way the judges are overseeing the CBI’s investigations into alleged criminal conspiracy.

The ED has so far registered five to seven cases under the money laundering law in the coal probe against the CBI’s 14, the NGO said in its plea before a bench of Justices R.M. Lodha, Madan B. Lokur and Kurien Joseph.

Common Cause contrasted this case with the 2G probe in which properties had been attached.

“To the best of the petitioners’ information, no attachment orders have been issued till date. In the 2G case, investigations by the CBI and the ED had proceeded concurrently and provisional attachment orders were passed by the ED under the PMLA,” Common Cause said in its application filed through lawyers Prashant Bhushan and Pranav Sachdeva.

Under the money laundering law — which deals with the financial dimensions of a crime — coal blocks/mining leases are liable to be attached as the allocations involved offences under the act, it argued.

“Thus, the public servants and the private entities which have secured allocations of coal blocks in a mala fide manner have committed the offence of money laundering under the PMLA and are punishable under the act,” the NGO said.

Common Cause then explained why it wants the court to oversee the ED probe.

“Since the ED works under the ministry of finance, and (is) hence susceptible to political pressure, it is essential that the investigation carried out by the ED is also monitored by this hon’ble court just like the one being carried out by the CBI,” lawyer Bhushan said.

The NGO also said the CBI and the ED should share information to ensure the allocations were thoroughly investigated. It is in the context of this probe that the court had earlier this year dubbed the CBI a “caged parrot” and vowed to liberate it from political and other extraneous influences.

Earlier in today’s hearing, CBI counsel Amarender Sharan opposed a move by the bench to appoint an amicus curiae — a friend of the court — to assist it in the case. Sharan said such an appointment would result in the details of the sensitive investigation being leaked to the media.