With just two days left for it to decide on filing FIRs in the coalgate scam, the CBI is focussing its probe on 12 firms which were given licenses under the 'fast track' category but had not yet commenced mining of the allocated coal blocks.
A CBI team met senior officials in the coal ministry and sought documents pertaining to the 12 coal blocks - nine in Chattisgarh and three in Jharkhand - besides action taken by the ministry after it emerged that the mining work had not started at all, sources said on Thursday.
The time for filing a FIR after a Preliminary Enquiry (PE) was registered by the CBI on June 1, 2012 following a direction from the Central Vigilance Commission ends this Saturday. The probe agency not registered a case yet.
As the three-month deadline for a probe on a PE was nearing, the CBI despatched some more teams to Jharkhand and was gathering relevant documents from other ministries and state governments too, the sources said.
The sources said coal ministry officials had also informed the CBI that it had issued show cause notices to some of the firms which were allocated the mines for explaining the delay in conducting the mining work.
Some of the firms, whch were allocated coal blocks in 2005, were yet to start mining, the sources said.
In a related development, the CBI was also examining the past areas of operation of some of the companies which were allotted coal blocks in Jharkhand, Chattisgarh and Karnataka, the sources said.
The sources claimed that some of these companies had been set up only for getting coal blocks allocated and the same was later sublet to other companies at a premium.
The agency has already questioned senior bureaucrats who were overseeing allocation of coal blocks during 2005-09, the sources said.
The CBI was also examining the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) report on coal block allocation which was tabled in Parliament last week.
The agency has also questioned members of the screening committee including secretary and joint secretaries in the ministry, CBI sources said.
They said the questioning of the coal secretary, who also chair the screening committee, was done to understand the issues involved in the allocation of coal blocks during the period and so far the agency has not found any irregularities on their part.