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SC tells CBI to complete filing chargesheets in coal scam by March 28

New Delhi, Mar 10 (PTI): The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to file remaining five of the six remaining chargesheets in the coal block allocation scam by March 28, declining to grant the agency’s request for more time to do so.

The apex court also questioned the agency for delaying the filing of chargesheets despite recording a statement on February 10 that the chargesheets in six of the cases would be filed within three weeks.

”It (four weeks) is too much. This is no way. Why should it be delayed at all? You only said (on February 10) lawyers need to advise the agency,” a bench of justices R M Lodha, Madan B Lokur and Kurien Joseph said when senior advocate Amarender Sharan sought four weeks to file the chargesheets on the ground that certain aspects needed to be gone into.

The bench, which at first wanted only to give two weeks extension to finish the nitty-gritty of filing the chargesheets, settled for March 28 after CBI made a fervent plea.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for an NGO, opposed the CBI plea, contending that it was intended to take it beyond the general election.

He said that during the last hearing, the CBI said the investigation was almost complete and it was ready to file the chargesheets but now it is indulging in delaying tactics.

On Monday, the CBI filed the first of the six chargesheets before the trial court against Navabharat Power Pvt Ltd and accused two of its directors --P Trivikrama Prasad and Y Harish Chandra Prasad -- of conspiring and cheating.

The apex court also sought response from the CBI on the Income Tax department's plea seeking a direction to it to allow Income Tax officers to inspect documents seized by the investigation agency from the premises of Hindalco in order to initiate proceedings against Aditya Birla Group under the Income Tax Act.

“Response from the CBI to the application filed by the I-T department be filed within 15 days,” the bench said and added that it will peruse the CBI's response on March 28.

The department moved an application as the apex court had restrained the agency, investigating the coal block allocation scam, from sharing any information and documents pertaining to its probe with anybody without its approval.

In the application filed by Joint Director of Income Tax Alka Gautam, the department sought permission to allow one of its officers to go through the documents collected by CBI while raiding the premises of Hindalco across the country in which unaccounted cash of around Rs 25 crore was recovered.

“It is submitted that the documents seized by CBI are required to be inspected only to ascertain whether they will be useful in the proceedings initiated against Aditya Birla Group under the Income Tax Act. If permitted by this court, the documents will be inspected by Ankita Pandey,” the application said.

The department assured the court that CBI probe in the case will not be affected in any way if it is allowed to go through the documents seized by the agency.

”It is learnt that the CBI had conducted countrywide searches at the premises of Hindalco Industries Ltd in October 2013 and it is believed that the CBI has seized certain documents some of which may be relevant for the proceedings under the Income Tax Act,” it said.

During the last hearing on February 10, the bench had also recorded CBI's statement that it would complete the probe on all preliminary inquiries and regular cases registered by it by April end.

The CBI has initiated around 16 regular cases on coal block allocations, including those against MP Naveen Jindal and former minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao in relation to coal block allocation and against K M Birla and former coal secretary P C Parakh for alleged illegality in grant of blocks to Hindalco Industries Ltd.