New Delhi: Terming it a "massive breach of trust" and a matter that has "shaken its foundation", the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday took a very serious note of the CBI affidavit on the coal block allocation scam and asserted that the probe agency must be "liberated" and should not be controlled by "political masters". The apex court also slammed the probe agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue.
The Supreme Court bench said "suppression" of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is "not ordinary". A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha observed that there was a "very disturbing feature" in the affidavit filed on April 26 by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha and the agency must be restored to its independent position.
The Supreme Court also posed before CBI some questions related to the investigation. They are:
1. Why was it not disclosed that the March 8 report was shared with the government?
2. Why on March 12 a very emphatic assertion was made by the CBI Counsel that this report was not shared?
3. Besides the Law Minister and two Joint Secretaries, was the report shared with anybody else?
4. Were any changes made in the CBI status report?
5. At whose instance were the changes made and what is the effect of changes?
6. Is the Law Minister entitled to call for such a report?
7. Does it not show erosion of the trust that the court has shown in CBI?
Sinha, in his two page affidavit filed in the apex court, had said the agency's status report on coal allocation scam was "shared" with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials of PMO and Coal ministry "as desired by them". The apex court said that sharing of information with the government about the probe into the scam has "shaken the entire process" and CBI need not take instructions from "political masters" on their probe.
"Our first exercise will be to liberate CBI from political interference," the bench said. In his affidavit, the CBI Director had said, "I submit that the draft of the same (status report) was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court. Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them."
The CBI Director had also assured the apex court that the agency will not share further status reports in this case with any member of the political executive. Sinha's affidavit had contradicted the claim made by Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval on behalf of CBI on March 12 that the probe report in the scam has not been shared with any member of the government and it has only been shared with the apex court after being vetted by the CBI director.
The affidavit was filed in compliance with the Supreme Court's order which, in an unprecedented move on March 12, had directed the CBI director to assure the court that the status report in the coalgate scam is not being shared with the government. Tuesday's hearing came a day after Raval shot off a letter to Attorney General GE Vahanvati in which he alleged that he has been made a "scapegoat" in the matter.
Raval is also believed to have accused Vahanvati of trying to interfere in CBI's probe report. Earlier, the CBI and the Centre had clashed over the coalgate scam. The agency had told the court that there have been "arbitrary allotments without scrutiny" in the coal blocks allocation during the UPA-I tenure.
The government had refuted its findings saying that the "CBI is not the final word on this." In the status report filed by CBI on March 8, the agency had said that the coal block allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was given by the Coal Ministry in giving coal blocks to them.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)