'Coalgate' goes to court

INDIA’S Supreme Court has criticized the country’s Central Bureau of Investigation for allowing the government to vet the findings of an investigation into the alleged “coalgate” scandal.
'Coalgate' goes to court 'Coalgate' goes to court 'Coalgate' goes to court 'Coalgate' goes to court 'Coalgate' goes to court

Manmohan Singh courtesy of the World Economic Forum

Staff Reporter

The top court said on Monday that the decision by the CBI to share the investigation report with the government was “not ordinary” and it would seek to free the federal investigation body from political interference, according to Bloomberg.

“The investigation has to be independent without any extraneous influence,” the three-judge bench said.

“The very foundation of the investigating process is shaken by political interference.”

The bench, headed by Justice RM Lodha, called the breach “a vital erosion of trust”

The court hearing has severely disrupted Parliament while Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is now being called on to step down.

In April, The Indian Express reported the alleged scandal and said the information could result in the government being accused of using the CBI for partisan purposes.

It said senior CBI officials, including director Ranjit Sinha, were summoned by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar days before the status report was filed.

During a lengthy meeting, also attended by some officials of the law ministry, several amendments in the status report were suggested and some also incorporated by the CBI.

The Indian Express also reported that the CBI's status report was similarly "vetted'' by senior Prime Minister’s Office officials.

In March 2012, a leaked government audit suggested state miner Coal India had squandered more than $US200 billion by allocating coal blocks instead of allowing competitive bidding.

The report, which the Times of India called “mind-boggling”, ruffled reformers within the Indian coal industry, led to the opening of public coal block auctioning and recently resulted in direct corruption accusations against the country’s chief of government.

The CBI report was an investigation into the matter.

The bench said it would remain engaged with the case and would determine who tampered with the status report and what benefit was gained from it.

The court has directed Sinha to file an affidavit by Monday disclosing names and details relating to the changes made to the investigation report.