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Manmohan in coal case: Court rejects CBI closure report

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New Delhi: A special court established last year to specifically try cases relating to the allocation of coal blocks has rejected closure reports filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in six of the cases, including one against former prime minister Manmohan Singh.

manmohan singh_3C--621x414--621x414The apex court, on July 18, 2014, set up a CBI special court to try, on a day-to-day basis, cases arising from the allocation of coal blocks.

The CBI, which filed its first charge sheet on the matter on March 10, 2014, had filed investigation reports in 15 cases. Of these, the agency filed charge-sheets in nine cases and closure reports in six cases.

The court was not satisfied with the CBI’s closure reports in five of the cases, and asked the agency to conduct probe further. Among the five cases one was related to a coal block allocation to Hindalco, in which Manmohan Singh was summoned, as were industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, among others. The case related to allocation of the Talabira II coal block in Odisha to Hindalco in 2005. This order was passed on March 11, 2015.

On April 1, the Supreme Court stayed the summons against Manmohan Singh. On the court’s orders, the CBI followed up on probe in the five cases. Of the five, the court took cognizance of four cases, including Hindalco.

Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar issued summons to various top leaders, government officials as well as corporate honchos, named in the cases. Among the cases is one related to allocation of the Moira and Madhujore (north and south) coal blocks in West Bengal to Kolkata-based Vikash Metal and Power Limited (VMPL). The case is still being probed.

The sixth closure report was regarding coal block allocation involving Prakash Industries Ltd. The court is yet to take cognizance in the case. Of the charge sheets filed in in nine cases, the CBI named various top government officials, including former minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao, former coal secretary H.C. Gupta, former parliamentarian and industrialist Naveen Jindal, former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda.

Judge Parashar was not satisfied with three of the charge sheets and observed that the probe agency has not conducted proper probe in finding out alleged collusion between public servants and company officials.

The court therefore ordered further probe in the three cases after taking cognisance of the charge sheets. The three cases relate to allocation of coal blocks in Rampia and Dip Side of Rampia in Odisha to Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd, Maharashtra’s Bander coal block allocation to AMR Iron and Steel Private Ltd, and Lohara (east) coal block in Maharashtra to Grace Industries Ltd.

Later, based on the report of further investigation, the court issued summons to former coal ministry officials K.S. Kropha and K.C. Samria and the companies mentioned and their heads.

In one of the matters, charge sheet was filed related to allocation of coal blocks to Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd. in Jharkhand’s Rajhara town. The special court on September 4 last year returned the charge sheet filed by the CBI after the agency failed to respond adequately to the queries raised by the judge.

Later, in December 2014, the CBI filed a fresh charge sheet naming Madhu Koda and others as accused.

The CBI till April 1 this year has registered 40 first information reports in its ongoing probe into the coal block allocation cases. The Supreme Court on September 24, 2014 cancelled 214 coal blocks allocated from 1993 to 2011.

Senior counsel R.S. Cheema is the special public prosecutor. Special judge Parashar began his daily proceedings on August 25 last year after all cases related to coal matter were transferred to his court.

(IANS)

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CBI Unravels Wrongdoing in Atomic Minerals Mining Licensing

The Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks

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CBI, Atomic Minerals, Mining
The government was unaware that these minerals had strategic and defence value. Pixabay

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has uncovered large-scale irregularities in the ownership pattern, financial resources and technical ability of five companies granted mining licences for offshore blocks bearing rare and atomic minerals.

The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director, the Central government has told the Supreme Court.

The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010, says a CBI document.

At that time, the government was unaware that these minerals had strategic and defence value.

CBI, Atomic Minerals, Mining
The companies, while applying for mining licence in June 2010, had a common director. Pixabay

The administering authority of these licences did not obtain mandatory clearances from various ministries, especially the Home Ministry, according to the CBI.

The Delhi High Court, in an order dated April 25, directed the Centre to execute the exploration licence of the companies as per the procedure within four weeks from the date of receipt of the order.

The verdict came even after the Centre, in an affidavit dated April 16, told the Delhi High Court that it had taken a policy decision not to auction or re-grant the offshore blocks, bearing atomic minerals, to private parties.

Moving the Supreme Court against the High Court ruling, the Centre accused the companies of not submitting the proper supporting documents on the basis of which the marking was done in the evaluation sheet.

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The companies were charged with not providing any document indicating the sanctioned line of credit from any financial institution or bank.

One of the companies approached a leading financial services company seeking finance to carry out mining.

“This document was accepted as a document in support of the financial capability of the applicant company. Accordingly, a MoU was signed on September 23, 2010, which was received by Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) in October 2010, after the date of submission of application for grant of licences on September 14, 2010,” said an internal CBI document.

Therefore, the Centre believed that the company had not confirmed the sanctioned credit limit as per the revised guidelines.

CBI, Atomic Minerals, Mining
The Centre has argued that the five companies were registered after the government called private parties for mining licences in June 2010. Pixabay

“The above MoU was valid only till March 31, 2011. Thus, on the date of issue of grant order by IBM on April 5, 2011, the MoU was null and void,” said the document.

According to information from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs (MCA), the authorised share capital of this company and its sister concerns was Rs 25 lakh each whereas the paid up share capital of each of the companies was Rs 1 lakh.

The net worth was negative for each company during fiscal 2016-17. The companies, even as of now, are not financially capable of undertaking any activities or business operations, said the document.

The companies stated that they were sister companies of 12 other companies engaged in different business sectors.

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“The worth of the companies and their directors are more than Rs 300 crore. If the exploration licence is granted to the applicant companies, expenses up to Rs 50 crore can be spent easily and can be further increased up to Rs 100 crore, if required,” says a petition in the Supreme Court.

“However, this is not acceptable since the company has been incorporated as Limited Liability Company and therefore the financial commitments by the sister companies had no relevance in the absence of resolution passed by the Board of Directors of the sister companies,” it added.

Despite the inadequate documents in support of their financial strength, the companies got 25 marks by the screening committee which shortlisted applications for mining licence.

“These private companies failed to produce satisfactory documentation for the requisite technical ability and financial resources to undertake exploration operation”, said an officer familiar with the investigation.

The CBI has charge-sheeted the government officials who in November 2017 signed in haste two licence deeds with one of the companies without following the due process.

The CBI, which has started preliminary enquiry after a gap of six years following a go-ahead from the apex court, favours a full-fledged investigation against everyone linked to the grant of licences. (IANS)