The CBI on Wednesday got the Centre’s permission to question former coal secretary H C Gupta in connection with the coal block allocation scam. A similar request made by the agency was earlier turned down by the Ministry of Corporate Affairs.
Gupta, while serving as coal secretary from 2006 to 2009, had headed the screening committee that examined the applications for coal block allocations. The CBI probe into the coal scam worth Rs 1.86 lakh crore had revealed that companies had misrepresented information to the screening committee to bag coal block contracts.
Gupta is currently posted in the Competition Commission of India, an agency within the ambit of the Corporate Affairs Ministry. According to Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act, the CBI could not conduct any inquiry or investigate into any offence alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998, without prior approval of the Union Government, where the allegations are against employees of central government of the level of joint secretary or above.
The BJP had come down heavily on the Centre after it first denied permission to probe into Gupta’s role. BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar had alleged that the government was trying to scuttle the probe and “save” the Prime Minister, who was in charge of the Coal Ministry for a few months when the coal blocks were allocated.
The CBI has so far filed 12 cases related to coal block allocations from 2006 to 2009. In the last FIR registered on Tuesday, the CBI had booked industrialist Navin Jindal and then Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao for alleged cheating, graft and criminal misconduct. The agency is likely to grill industrialist Jindal, who has been accused of entering into a conspiracy to obtain a Jharkhand coal block for his companies based on false representations.
Some of the screening committee members of that period could also be quizzed.