Responding to an Indian Express report on the CBI launching a probe into the strategic sale of Hindustan Zinc Ltd (HZL) by the NDA government in 2002, former disinvestment minister Arun Shourie has written to the CBI Director, drawing attention to a December 2012 Supreme Court judgement that effectively rejected a petition challenging the HZL stake sale on the very grounds being used now for initiating the probe by the investigating agency.
While asserting that he would be glad to provide all the requisite information on the HZL disinvestment, Shourie has, in his letter to CBI Director Ranjit Sinha, emphasised that the stake sale in HZL had been challenged before the Supreme Court on the grounds that the process could not have been done without the approval of Parliament.
On December 10, 2012, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the chief justice, had rejected the petition and the grounds, Shourie has stated.
The disinvestment process was challenged in a writ petition (W.P (C)No.513/2012 filed by Maton Mines Mazdoor Sangh). After hearing the counsel, the Court rejected the challenge. Shourie is learnt to have sent both the petition as well as the apex court judgment on the issue, along with his missive to Sinha.
“... As recently as 10 December 2012, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice, rejected the petition and the grounds. I wonder if this fact has been brought to the attention of the CBI... I sincerely hope that this fact will be borne in mind while considering what may turn out to be a vexatious attempt at harassment,” Shourie has said in his letter to the CBI chief.
On October 8, The Indian Express had reported the CBI’s move to launch an investigation into the strategic sale of HZL to Anil Agarwal’s Sterlite Opportunities & Ventures Ltd, by the NDA government in 2002. The probe, based on the records the agency had sought from the mines ministry, is reportedly focused on how HZL was privatised without the approval of Parliament when it was created by acquiring Metal Corporation of India Ltd (MCIL) through a parliamentary statute — the Metal Corporation (Nationalisation) Act of 1976. The CBI had written to the mines ministry on August 20, seeking HZL records until 2007 as well as “details of officers who were associated with the process of disinvestment”.
The probe agency also called for the “entire