The Supreme Court on Monday directed the Central Bureau of Investigation to inquire into its former director Ranjit Sinha’s alleged role in the coal block allocation scam, ANI reported. The CBI has been asked to set up a Special Investigation Team to look into accusations that Sinha had attempted to influence the coal scam probe.
“Prima facie, a case is made out against Sinha for allegedly conniving with certain accused in the coal scam,” the Supreme Court said. Newly-appointed CBI Director Alok Verma, who took charge on January 19, will now lead the investigation against Sinha. The bench asked Verma to constitute a team of two officers, and said they hoped the “director will investigate it earnestly”, reported Hindustan Times.
Moreover, the apex court ruled out the need for a team outside the CBI, saying it trusted the investigative agency to conduct an impartial investigation, reported The Indian Express. The bench, headed by Justice Madan B Lokur, said the court was convinced that Sinha had abused his authority during the inquiry into the coal scam.
In July 2016, a Supreme Court-appointed panel, headed by former CBI special officer ML Sharma, had noted that Sinha had met with a few prominent accused in the scam at his house. In its report, the panel had held that prima facie, it appeared that Sinha had tried to influence the investigation.
The former CBI director’s alleged attempt to sway the investigation came to light in 2014 after senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan presented the Supreme Court with a visitor’s logbook to Sinha’s house. The logbook purportedly contained entries from many high-profile accused in the coal scam case.
The scandal surfaced after the Comptroller and Auditor General found discrepancies in government allocations of coalfields during former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s term and a loss of some Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the national exchequer. Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Hindalco, Essar Power, Tata Steel and Tata Power were among the 25 companies named as beneficiaries in the CAG report. The CBI had filed a chargesheet in the case in April 2015.