Top coal and law minis try officials met on Monday to take a legal view on whether coal blocks could be deallocated purely on the basis of FIRs filed by CBI, with the apex court directing CBI to not share any report with the government in the case.
The CBI has already registered 13 FIRs, two preliminary inquiries and is expected to file two more FIRs in the coal blocks allotment scandal.
Government sources said coal ministry has put the onus on the law ministry to decide on deallocation of the coal blocks as it feels that the inter-ministerial group (IMG) can only deallocate on grounds of performance and not criminality.
While the PMO is pushing for an early decision, the law ministry is mulling whether an FIR is sufficient ground for deallocation. The meeting was attended by law secretary DK Sikri, secretary (coal) Sanjay Srivastava and senior law officers of the government.
When the coal ministry first asked the law ministry for advice on deallocation, the latter said action could be taken on the basis of status investigation report from the CBI.
However, the apex court's directive to CBI of not sharing any report with the government in the case has further complicated the matter. "With CBI not willing to part with the status of investigations, how can the government deallocate only on the basis of an FIR. IMG can only recommend deallocation based on performance," said a senior official.
The IMG, in its course of 19 meetings — last one being on June 25, 2013 — has decided on 144 cases. Out of this, the IMG has deallocated coal blocks in 24 cases, recommended deduction of bank guarantees in 19 cases and imposed fresh guarantees in 12 cases.
It has taken no action in nine cases and in two other cases in which FIRs were registered. It has issued show cause notice to 29 companies, 21 explanation notices have been sent for slow progress and another 27 show cause notices are in the pipeline.
Besides these 144 cases, the government had earlier deallocated coal blocks in 18 cases. Another 35 are under production and remaining 21 out of the total 210 cases are in various stages of development.