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Coalgate victim Maha minister may be told to quit

Rajesh Ahuja, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 06, 2012
First Published: 00:59 IST(6/9/2012) | Last Updated: 09:51 IST(6/9/2012)

Maharashtra education minister Rajendra Darda will be the first casualty of the coal scam, with the Congress high command signalling him to resign after being named an accused by the CBI.

A decision on Darda’s fate may be taken after Congress chief Sonia Gandhi returns from abroad in two days, but he may resign before that, said party sources. Darda is accused of criminal conspiracy and violation of the Prevention of Corruption Act in one of the five CBI FIRs.

But no immediate action is planned against the minister’s brother and Congress Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda — another accused — as he does not hold a party position.

After registering FIRs against five companies for allegedly distorting facts to get coal blocks, the CBI is probing if the screening committee deliberately overlooked ineligibilities of firms that had applied for the blocks.

The panel was usually presided over by the union coal secretary and included chief secretary-level state officials, representatives from ministries such as power and steel, central officials and those from Coal India Limited and its subsidiaries.

“We have to see if there was criminal intent for overlooking the ineligibilities of companies, if money changed hands and whether the committee had enough resources in the first place to check the firms’ eligibilities,” said an investigator.

Sources said investigators have found that coal block applications were often okayed by consensus — when there would be no opposition from a state or any screening committee member.

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