Putting a question mark on the integrity of some of the cases of the Supreme Court-monitored investigation by the CBI in the coal scam, at least one investigating officer (IO) has complained to the agency director of “huge amounts” of money having “exchanged hands” and “corrupt” senior officers contaminating some probes.
The complaint, written anonymously — it’s signed by “Honest IOs, CBI” — has alleged that some seniors in the agency are taking bribes from companies to fix cases and are pressuring IOs to “weaken” cases where payoffs have been purportedly made.
In one case, the complaint alleges, where closure was reported to the Supreme Court, the case was re-opened when the director of the company being investigated refused to pay a bribe. The three-page letter, addressed to CBI director Anil Sinha, reached the agency late March, The Indian Express has found.
Responding to a detailed email sent by The Indian Express on the complaint’s key allegations, the CBI spokesperson said: “As per directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India, the CBI is not in a position to share any information relating to inquiry/investigation in Coal cases.”
However, CBI sources confirmed that Sinha, who received the letter in early April, has taken cognizance of the complaint because it alleges 24 specific cases — and offers details that are not in the public domain because the apex court has ordered strict confidentiality regarding the investigation.
Independent sources have also confirmed that the anonymous letter has been written by at least one IO who has had “first-hand experience” of what he has alleged.
Alleging “corrupt practices in coal cases being perpetrated in EO (Economic Offence) Zone,” the complaint says: “Huge amounts have exchanged hands in name of DCBI (Director, CBI) and a few selective officers are beneficiaries. These officers are intimidating other officers not to speak the truth in court.”
The complaint has listed specific cases arising out of the recommendations of coal block allocation by the 35th Screening Committee. The panel held meetings in June, July and September 2007 and allocated 15 coal blocks to some 30 companies.
Minutes of the meetings mentioned a report of Coal India Limited (CIL) experts on the financial strength of applicants for allocations. But some documents relating to the 35th Screening Committee, including the CIL report, went missing later and a preliminary enquiry (PE) was registered on the order of the Supreme Court.
Consider some of the key allegations cited in the complaint:
* In one case, a closure report was preferred in the Supreme Court but a regular case (RC) got registered a month later in the same case based on the same facts after the company’s director refused to pay bribe.
* In one case, even after the CBI Director (DCBI) approved registration of a RC, the approval for registration of RC was later changed and the matter was closed with the same facts.
* Seven cases were closed by selectively not using CIL experts’ report on net worth while the report was invoked to register cases against others.
* RCs were not registered in at least seven cases despite the companies’ misrepresentation on availability of land.
* Misrepresentation on preparedness has not led to registration of RCs in seven cases whereas CBI has filed chargesheets in other cases on the same grounds.
* One case has been closed in spite of misrepresentation on account of financial competence, net worth, land and existing capacity.
* Public servants were prosecuted in some cases for not checking misrepresentation and not verifying claims of company. When a company was to be helped, public servants were not prosecuted because that “saves everybody from the Prevention of Corruption Act.”
* If IOs recommended prosecution of public servants against wishes of seniors, they were threatened with departmental proceedings and discouraged to speak the truth in court.
The complaint acquires significance because as per the Supreme Court order, a team of IOs and senior CBI officers, specially-appointed lawyers, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) officers and retired CBI special director M L Sharma are the only ones aware of the specifics of the investigations.
Status reports on the ongoing investigation are submitted to the top court in sealed cover envelopes.
The CBI has so far submitted 15 progress reports on the probes and ED has given nine status reports in court. The CVC has been directed by the court to vet the cases sought to be closed by the CBI.
A Supreme Court bench of Justices Madan B Lokur, Kurian Joseph and A K Sikri will hear the case next on May 4.