Coalgate back in the news as SC raises fundamental issue

Like Banquo's ghost, Coalgate is back again to haunt the UPA government thanks to the Supreme Court asking if the centre even had the authority to allocate coal blocks.

With the UPA government in a tight spot over the gross irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks for captive consumption of coal users, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which is looking into the scam, has now opted to expand the scope of the probe rather than submit a report any soon.

The Supreme Court, however, made it clear on Thursday that the agency cannot evade periodic scrutiny of its probe into `Coalgate'.

While casting doubts on the legal sanctity of the coal block allocations, the court also pulled up the CBI over its reluctance to file status report on the investigation.

The court's remark comes after of one of the petitioners, NGO Common Cause, questioned the efficacy of the CBI investigations into the scam that is reported to have caused a loss of over Rs1,00,000 crore to the government.

Counsel for the petitioners Prashant Bhushan said although CBI registered preliminary enquiry (PEs) nearly seven months ago, there was no means to ascertain if the probe is proceeding to its logical end especially as the suspects include high-profile persons such as MPs.