The Supreme Court on Monday issued notices to the Centre and the CBI on a petition seeking direction for a thorough probe into entire coal allocations made by the Centre between 1993 and 2012.
A Bench comprising Justice R M Lodha and Justice A R Dave asked the Secretary, Ministry of Coal, to file a comprehensive reply on the alleged irregularities in the allocations within eight weeks and posted the matter to January 24 for further hearing.
The petition was filed by former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian, former Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami, Ramaswamy R Iyer, former Secretary, Government of India, Admiral (Retd) R H Tahiliani, Admiral (Retd) L Ramdas, Sushil Tripathi, former Secretary, Government of India, along with Common Cause, a registered Society dedicated to redressal of grievances of people.
The petition sought cancellation of the licences granted by the government for coal blocks to various private companies. The petitioners alleged that the ongoing CBI probe into the scam was not sufficient and only a SIT can conduct an impartial probe into the case in which names of many ministers and their kin had cropped up.
After hearing the submissions of Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioners, Justice Lodha said that the respondents need to file a detailed reply. “There are two, three options (for the respondents). One is you respond to it explaining government’s position. Otherwise, we will formally issue notice. Ultimately, notice is issued only to have your response,” he added.
Advocate M L Sharma, who filed another plea which was also listed for hearing, said the court had to constitutionally examine the policy matter. Advocate General Goolam Vahanvati told the Bench that a comprehensive reply would be filed.
Justice Lodha asked Bhushan as to why the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) was also made a respondent. The counsel replied that it was moreover the CVC has some kind of supervisory jurisdiction over the CBI and because it had first asked the CBI to conduct an inquiry into the scam. “How will the CVC help us and that will unnecessarily complicate the issue,” Justice Lodha remarked.
Bhushan objected to more time being given to the Centre for filing a counter affidavit. Justice Lodha said: “We don’t want multiple hearings and piecemeal hearings and directed that the matter would come up after eight weeks for further hearing.”