Law Minister, PMO made changes in coal probe report, CBI tells SC
New Delhi, May 6
But the changes neither altered the central theme of the report, which was submitted to the SC on March 8, nor shifted the focus of enquiries or investigations in any manner. Sinha also assured the SC that no suspects or accused were removed from the report or let off in the process.
Sinha filed the affidavit on the directive of an apex court bench headed by Justice RM Lodha which had taken exception to the CBI sharing its status report with the political executive and officials. The SC’s reaction to the affidavit will be known only on May 8 when the bench will hear the PILs seeking cancellation of the coal block allocations in view of the alleged scam and the huge loss to the government arising from it.
In the nine-page affidavit, the CBI chief said the status report was first discussed in the first week of February 2013 at a meeting held in the Law Minister’s office in the light of a January 24 SC order seeking a status report. At the meeting, the CBI said filing an affidavit containing the status of the investigations could prejudice the integrity of the ongoing probe and enquiries. The minister and the AG “also shared the same viewpoint. The AG suggested seeking SC’s permission to submit the report in a sealed cover.
Again on March 6, a draft report on preliminary enquiry (PE 2) relating to coal block allocating made during 2006-09 was taken to the office of Kumar as he wanted to peruse it. After going through the report, the minister made “certain changes in the same.” The AG and Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval (who has since quit) were also present at the meeting, but they did not make any suggestions.
Later in the day, two CBI officers - Joint Director OP Galhotra and DIG Ravikant - went to the residential office of the AG at the suggestion of ASG Raval, who was appearing for the CBI in the SC. At the meeting, which was not attended by Sinha, the AG“glanced through portions” of PE 2 and PE 4 pertaining to allocations made during 1993-2005 and suggested “certain minor changes” in PE 2. The ASG was also present.
The same day, Shatrughna Singh, Joint Secretary in the PMO and AK Bhalla, Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry, went to the CBI office and met Galhotra and went through the draft status reports pertaining to PE 2 and PE 4. The next day they suggested amendments in both the PEs.
“All the draft reports were then compiled after confirming their factual accuracy and proper formatting. The same were again put up to the Director, CBI, and finally vetted and approved by me on 7th March 2013” before being filed in the SC in a sealed cover, the CBI Director said.
“There was no deletion of any evidence against any suspect or accused, nor were any let off,” he assured the SC.
One of the changes pertained to the deletion of a tentative finding about non-existence of a system regarding allocation of specific weightage/points and non-preparation of broad sheets or charts by the screening committee, both at the instance of the two officials in the PMO and the Coal Ministry.
A sentence about the scope of enquiry with respect to the legality of allocation while the amendments in law were in process was deleted on Kumar’s suggestion. A change was made in a sentence about non-existence of approved guidelines for allocation of coal blocks at the behest of PMO and coal ministry officials.
The CBI did not share PE 5 on allocations under government dispensation category with any of them, he said.
Sinha said there was nothing in the CBI manual or guidelines debarring the agency from sharing such reports with the government.
He further said his officers “continue” to have regular interaction with the two PMO and coal officials with regard to the ongoing enquiry. “These officials coordinate with my officers in the production of the requisite files, documents, information and clarifications to the CBI.”
Case hearing on May 8
The CBI Director filed the affidavit on the directive of an apex court bench which had taken exception to the CBI sharing its status report with the political executive and officials
The SC’s reaction to the affidavit will be known only on May 8 when the bench hears the PILs seeking cancellation of the coal block allocations in view of the alleged scam