SC notice to CBI, ED on probe plea against Hindalco, Sasan plant

New Delhi, July 6 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday issued notice to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) on the plea by NGO Common Cause seeking a probe into alleged “hawala transactions, money laundering and bribery” for allocation of Talabira II coal block to Kumar Manglam Birla-owned Hindalco.

The court also issued notice on a plea for investigation into permission granted for diversion of coal from the captive coal block allocated to Sasan UMPP that was adversely commented upon by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG).

A bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice A.K.Sikri, hearing cases rooted in the coal block allocation scam, issued notice after counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the NGO, said no probe was undertaken despite Income Tax department saying that Hindalco allegedly paid Rs.200 crore to various people for securing interest in Talabira coal block.

Contending that this was a clear case for thorough investigation, Bhushan said how could the investigating agencies take a position that they will not investigate these payments made by Hindalco.

He said that Income Tax department came to the conclusion on the basis of details revealed in the diary seized by the CBI from the office of the Hindalco.

Bhushan gave to the court, in a sealed cover, what he described as the findings of the Income Tax investigation into use of money by Hindalco to facilitate the allocation of a part of the coal block.

On Sasan UMPP, Bhushan, seeking investigation into the permission granted for the diversion of coal, contended that it caused a loss of Rs.29,000 crore to the public exchequer.

He said that that apex court in its judgment cancelling the coal blocks had said that no coal from the captive coal blocks allocated for UMPP would be diverted for any other purposes.

The court on Monday also asked Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi to ascertain from former CBI officer M.L.Sharma if he was inclined to head the team that would look into the meetings former agency chief Ranjit Sinha had with coal block allocation scam accused.

The SIT so set up would investigate if these meetings had in any way impacted the investigations and subsequent charge sheets or closure reports filed by the CBI in the coal block allocation scam cases.

At the outset of the hearing, Rohatgi told the court that the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) did not have an investigating arm to undertake the exercise and a team of officers of impeccable integrity could be constituted to investigate the matter.

While directing the listing of the matter next week, the court asked Rohatgi to speak to Sharma and seek his consent.

The court also said that if Sharma gives his consent, then he should be asked to give a few names that he may like to have in the SIT to investigate the matter as directed by the apex court by its May 14 order, in which it, holding as “inappropriate” the meetings between Sinha and the accused, had referred the matter to the CVC for its opinion about further course of action.

“It is necessary to look into the question whether any one or more such meetings of Mr.Sinha with accused persons without the investigating officer have had any impact on the investigations and subsequent charge sheets or closure reports filed by the CBI.”

Meanwhile, Special Public Prosecutor in coal block allocation scam cases R.S. Cheema on Monday told the court that it should consider setting up another court to try the coal block scam cases as the hands of the present court were already full.

Cheema told the court that of the 50 or so cases, the existing trial court was holding trial in 32 and it would take about two years to complete their trial.

The remaining 18 or so cases should be entrusted to another court, he requested.

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