SC asks government to explain method of coal block allocation

The Supreme Court today pulled up the central government for lack of transparency in the allocation of coal blocks and failure to keep proper records regarding the allocation of 164 coal blocks to public sector and private entities.

The government also faced the court's ire for not aiding the Central Bureau of Investigation, the government agency that is probing the `Coalgate', with proper documents.

The Supreme Court had directed the government to file a comprehensive affidavit "justifying" allocation of 164 coal blocks.

The apex court said the CBI was "struggling" in its probe in the absence of documents not being supplied to it relating to the allocation of 204 coal blocks, out of which 40 have been de-allocated.

A bench headed by Justice R M Lodha said there was "lack of transparency" in the coal blocks allocation and "there was no system in place to verify the application of the companies and working of the screening committee appears to be sketchy".

"Regarding everything there is nothing on record. CBI is struggling as there are no documents in its possession," Justice Lodha said, adding, "I am sorry to say that the Union of India does not have basic documents."

"Had it been with you (government), it would have helped the CBI in its investigation," the judge said. The probe report indicated "a lot of deficiencies and infirmities" in the coal blocks allocation," he added.

The bench also asked Attorney General G E Vahanvati as to "why sanction of government is necessary in respect of court-monitored or court-directed investigation."

"This query is put to Attorney General in view of a categorical stand taken by the CBI before the Delhi High Court in a matter in which CBI counsel submitted that as the investigation was directed by the court, grant of sanction for prosecution is not necessary under section 6 of the Delhi Special Police Establishment (DSPE) Act," the bench said.

The bench also sought to know "why clarification should not be made that sanction for investigation of offences alleged to have been committed under the Prevention of Corruption Act is necessary from the government when the government's stand is that the power of supervision for investigation has already been shifted from government to CVC pursuant to direction issued by this court in Vineet Narain case."

Adding a twist to the whole murky affair, additional solicitor general Siddharth Luthra, who replaced senior advocate U U Lalit, withdrew from appearing for CBI after the Attorney General opined that no law officer should be involved with the agency in this case.

Vahanvati said he was not in the favour of law officers being engaged by the CBI in view of the controversy of sharing of probe report with the government.

The court, however, said, "under the garb of sanction, we won't allow the CBI to share the contents of probe report with political executive".