The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Centre to give details of companies allotted coal blocks since 1993 — a part of which was during BJP rule — and whether these firms fulfilled the criteria for grant of such blocks.
A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha asked Attorney General GE Vahanvati to give a list of firms which were not engaged in any of the four categories required for grant of blocks under the Coal Mines Nationalisation Act, 1973.
The CBI is probing all coal blocks allotted post-2004 (when a competitive bidding clause was introduced into the law and never enforced), blocks allotted between 1993 and 2004 and PSU allocations.
There have been allegations that coal blocks were allocated to ineligible companies. Even the CAG had estimated the loss caused to the exchequer by not auctioning the blocks between 2004 and 2011 at R10 lakh crore.
Meanwhile, the coal ministry said it is in the process of locating the missing documents and will update the CBI about the matter within days.
Earlier in the day, coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal said: “The list of (files) which could not be located would be handed over to CBI either tomorrow or the day after tomorrow... Then lodge FIR or take appropriate action.”
During the hearing in the coal scam, the CBI told the apex court that it was functioning under a stranglehold of bureaucrats and was facing difficulty in functioning as an independent investigating agency.
It told the court that road blocks are still there on its way to attaining functional autonomy as the Centre was averse to vesting its director with ex-officio powers of secretary, which would ensure the CBI’s independent working. “We (CBI) need freedom from babudom,” senior advocate Amrendra Sharan said, while pointing out hurdles faced by the agency in its administrative functioning.
The agency argued that its proposals were often returned with 20 objections. It requested that the CBI director's proposals be routed directly to the minister in charge of the department of personnel and training.