It was done ‘as desired by them,’ says affidavit filed in apex court

Dropping a political bombshell, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha on Friday told the Supreme Court that the agency’s status report on the coal allocation scam probe was “shared” with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Coal Ministry “as desired by them.”

But Mr. Sinha’s two-page affidavit was silent on whether any change was made in the draft report after it was shared with the government and before being filed in the court in a sealed envelope.

The affidavit assumes importance in the wake of allegations that the contents of the report were diluted at the behest of the government.

The affidavit belies the claim made by Additional Solicitor-General Harin Raval, on behalf of the CBI, on March 12 that the report was not shared with any member of the government.

“I submit that the draft of the same [status report] was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was shared with one joint secretary-level officer each of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Coal as desired by them,” the affidavit said.

Mr. Sinha, however, assured the court that the agency would not share further status reports with any member of the political executive.

He said the latest status report filed on Friday had not been shared with any political executive in “any manner whatsoever.”

All eyes will now be on the court to see how it reacts to Mr. Sinha’s affidavit at the next hearing on April 30.

The affidavit was filed in compliance with the order of the court, which, in an unprecedented move, had on March 12 directed the CBI Director to assure it that the status report was not being shared with the government.

Meanwhile, in the affidavit filed by the Coal Ministry on April 23, it was stated the entire deliberations of the screening committee meeting were not recorded in the minutes as a large number of representations were made by applicants for coal blocks allocation.

“Though the minutes do not record the details of the exercise carried out by the committee, the position is discernible from the record,” the Coal Ministry affidavit said.

Earlier, the CBI and the Centre had clashed over the coal scam, with the agency telling the court that there had been “arbitrary allotments of coal blocks without scrutiny” during the UPA-I tenure, and the government vehemently refuting the findings saying “the CBI is not the final word on this.”

In a status report filed on March 8, the CBI said coal blocks allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was adduced by the Coal Ministry for giving them blocks. The CBI said the probe had established irregularities by government authorities in allocation of the natural resources and around 300 companies were under its scanner.

The court was hearing a public interest litigation petition filed by members of civil society, including the former Chief Election Commissioner, N. Gopalaswami; the former Navy Chief, L. Ramdas; the former Cabinet Secretary, T.S.R. Subramanian, and advocate M.L. Sharma seeking a probe by a special investigation team into the scam.

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