The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) said that it is probing a demand for money by suspended IAS officer Y. Srilakshmi from a mine owner, C. Sashi Kumar, and the possibility of quid pro quo benefits from grant of leases to the Obulapuram Mining Company in Anantapur district.
The agency has stated in its charge-sheet filed in the special court for CBI cases that Ms. Srilakshmi and ex-mines director V.D. Rajagopal demanded huge bribes for issuing prospecting licence in favour of Mr. Sashi Kumar, brother of MLC C. Ramachandraiah, on 2,000 acres of virgin land. The applications for prospecting licence had been given priority over mining lease for non-notified virgin areas as per Mines and Minerals (Development and Regulation) Act.
Surrenders in court
An ex-secretary of industries and commerce, Ms. Srilakshmi surrendered in the special court for CBI cases on Friday on the direction of the High Court. She was later lodged in the Chanchalguda women's prison up to January 12. The High Court had asked her to give herself up while cancelling the bail granted to her last month by the CBI court.
The CBI said in the charge-sheet that Ms. Srilakshmi sent a letter rejecting the application of the State-owned Mineral Development Corporation (APMDC) for mining lease in over 25 hectares at Obulapuram village in Anantapur district on the ground that the OMC proposed to set up an integrated steel plant at a cost of Rs. 450 crore.
The OMC and APMDC were initially recommended for grant of lease at this site after stiff competition that comprised 23 other bidders. In fact, the entry of APMDC in the race was mired in controversy as it was aimed to spoil the chance of another company – S.R. Minerals – which had even got forest clearance. The claim of Satavahana Ispat Nigam was also overlooked though it had a pig iron plant near Bommanahal of Anantapur since 1992.
Ms. Srilakshmi later took up with then Mines and Geology Minister P. Sabita Indra Reddy grant of lease to OMC at the expense of APMDC. She insisted that APMDC did not have forest clearance or approval from the Indian Bureau of Mines. The Minister, however, asked Ms. Srilakshmi not to come to her with such requests. The lease was finally kept pending due to a litigation.
The charge-sheet noted that the IAS officer's observations were based on conjectures, surmises and hypothesis. She did not send the mandatory reasoned order explaining the grounds for rejection of other bids to the Central Government.