Union government tells court Inter-Ministerial Committee has been set up to locate missing files relating to coal blocks allocation

Taking a stand contradicting the Centre, the CBI on Tuesday made it clear that prior sanction from the government was not necessary for prosecution of senior officers in court-monitored cases.

In its affidavit in the Supreme Court in the ‘coal case’, the CBI said if the government held that sanction was mandatory, it would amount to suspension of the power of courts to monitor the investigation in the interregnum.

The Centre had maintained that sanction for investigation or prosecution was a necessity. “It is the administrative ministry which has the best domain knowledge to take a clear view on the involvement of an officer in any given set of circumstances.”

“Objective achieved”

Rejecting this stand, the CBI said, “No sanction under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act is necessary where cases are monitored by a constitutional court. The objective behind enactment of Section 6A is to give protection to officers at the decision-making level from the threat and ignominy of malicious and vexatious inquiries/investigations and to relieve them of the anxiety from the likelihood of harassment for taking honest decisions. In court-monitored cases, the courts act as a guardian/custodian of the right of citizens. Therefore, the said objective is fully achieved in court-monitored cases.”

The CBI wanted the court to interpret Section 6A of the DSPE Act to mean that prior sanction was not necessary for prosecution of senior-level officers.

In a previous order, the court had restrained the CBI from disclosing the status report with any person or authority, including any Minister or Law Officer. In the present application, the agency said facts of the cases were required to be discussed with in-house prosecutors (except the Director of Prosecution and Law officers who are appointees of the Law Ministry) for filing the charge sheet as investigation in respect of given regular cases had almost been completed.

The CBI reiterated its demand that its Director be granted the status of ex-officio Secretary to the government which would empower him to expeditiously put up disciplinary matters in respect of Group A officers in the CBI to the DoPT Minister/Prime Minister.

Centre files affidavit

Meanwhile, the Centre informed the court that an Inter-Ministerial Committee had been constituted to locate missing files and applications on coal blocks allocation.

An affidavit filed by the Coal Ministry said: “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.”

Giving details, the affidavit said, the CBI had sought 43 files; 19 applications of coal block allocatees/applicants; 157 applications of private companies which had applied for coal blocks prior to 28.06.2004 but have not been allocated blocks; 17 other documents; and clarifications on 9 points.”

“Of the 43 files, 21 have already been handed over to the CBI, 15 are available for handing over. Efforts are being made to locate the remaining 7 files.”

The affidavit detailing the number of files and documents is identical to the statement Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal made in the Rajya Sabha on August 23.

The Ministry said: “As on today, 178 coal blocks stand allocated to government and private companies. Of these, 12 have been earmarked for allocation to ultra mega power projects through competitive tariff-based bidding route. Four of these 12 blocks, involving 2 projects, have already been awarded. Two blocks have been allocated to private companies for Coal to Liquid projects based on recommendations made by the Inter-Ministerial Group.

One hundred and eight blocks had been allotted to private and government companies through the screening committee route and 56 blocks to government undertakings through government dispensation route.

The Ministry said allocation of a coal block was only the first step and the allottee, thereafter, had to obtain necessary clearances and submit a mining plan.

Only then would the mining lease be signed.