The Supreme Court on Wednesday made a stinging criticism that shook the credibility of the government and put a big question mark on its intentions regarding the Coalgate investigations. The apex court hauled up the CBI, its political “masters” who tend to treat it like a “caged parrot”, and senior officials of the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. But, it gave a breather to the Law Minister for the time being.
Letting its intense displeasure at the government’s interference in the Coalgate probe and status report known, the three-member apex court bench, headed by Justice R M Lodha, asked the government to make an effort to come out with a law, before July 10, to insulate CBI from “external influence and intrusion”.
So, whatever breather the government and its incumbent Law Minister have translates to only two interim months and no more. What is really damaging for the government is that, delivering the significant order after a three-hour-long hearing, the Supreme Court said, “The heart of the report was changed on suggestions of government officials.”
This was in apparent reference to the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s affidavit, submitted to the court on May 6, which said deletions were carried out in the status report at the instance of the officials of the PMO and Coal Ministry regarding the “non-existence of a system” regarding allocation of coal-blocks without “specific weightage/points”.
As the Coalgate investigation is supposed to focus on the ad-hoc allocation of coal blocks to private firms, allegedly at a loss to the national exchequer, the deletion virtually knocked off the core element of the probe. Therefore, the court said, the “whole direction” of the probe has changed.
And, which is why the apex court pulled up the CBI for acting like a “caged parrot speaking in its master’s voice” and said that it should stand up to all “pulls and pressures” and not share its probe with anyone including the Law Minister. In this case, Ashwani Kumar
The apex court also categorically directed the CBI to not share any report pertaining to the investigation in the coal blocks allocation scam with any officials or ministers other than those in its 33-member investigation team and the CBI Director. In this case, Ranjit Sinha.
It also asked the Centre and the CBI to repatriate DIG Ravi Kant Mishra, the investigating officer in the coal blocks allocation case who was shifted to Intelligence Bureau.