The CBI has summoned former Coal Secretary H C Gupta for questioning on Thursday. Gupta, who was the Coal Secretary from 2006 to 2009, would be questioned as an ‘accused’ in the case. In addition to being the Coal Secretary, Gupta headed the screening committee which decided on the allocation of the captive coal blocks. The investigating agency may question him regarding the clearance granted to various companies which bid for the coal blocks.
The CBI was allowed to probe Gupta’s role in the scam, under Section 6A of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act. According to the DSPE Act, the CBI cannot conduct any inquiry or investigation into any offence alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1998 without prior sanction from the Centre if the charges have been levelled against an official of the Joint Secretary rank or above. The CBI had recently recorded the statements of two officers Ashish Gupta and Vini Mahajan -- who served the PMO between 2006 and 2009 when majority of the coal block allocations were made. Both have been questioned as a witness in the case.
Gupta, a UP cadre IPS officer of the 1989 batch, was posted as vigilance officer in the PMO, while Mahajan, a Punjab cadre IAS officer, held a director rank post. Both officers have since been to their parent cadre. The CBI is currently probing the ‘alleged irregularities’ in the allocation of coal blocks between 2006 and 2009. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had held charge of the Coal Ministry from November 2006 to May 2009. A total of 142 coal blocks were allocated from 2006 to 2009.
The CAG, in its report tabled in Parliament in 2012, stated that the Centre had the authority to auction coal blocks, but chose not to. The national exchequer suffered an estimated loss of `1.86 lakh crore due to this. The CBI’s probe revealed that the companies had misrepresented information to the screening committee with the connivance of the unknown officials in the PMO, and bagged coal blocks.
Truth will Come Out, Says BJP
Prakash Javadekar who complained to the Central Vigilance Commission regarding coal scam said: “Despite the government’s effort for a massive cover-up in the scam to save the Prime Minister the truth regarding the coal scam will come out, if not today then tomorrow”.