In a huge setback to the coal scam probe, 18 states have denied the CBI sanction to investigate the joint ventures of state public sector undertakings (PSUs) and private companies that were allocated captive coal blocks, sources told HT.
The CBI is expected to inform the Supreme Court about the development before January 8 when the top court resumes hearing on the scam. The CBI, which sought sanction from 20 states, cannot probe state PSUs without permission from the concerned state.
Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Chhattisgarh and Maharashtra all denied permission to the CBI.
So far, 14 FIRs have been filed by the CBI in the scam and they pertain to coal allocations made to private firms in these four states.
Coal block allocations to private firms in Jharkhand are also under the scanner but it was one of two states, along with Kerala, that approved the CBI’s request to probe joint ventures. Jharkhand’s sanction came when it was under President’s rule, sources said.
Coal block allocations to joint ventures are made through the government dispensation route but the CBI in its initial probe found many irregularities with the method.
There was also confusion as to when the decision was taken to allow private sector mining through joint venture.
Sources said in some cases the CBI found that private operators were allowed to have a 74% majority stake in joint ventures with PSUs for captive dispensation route, which essentially made the PSUs private owned.
The CBI had registered three preliminary enquiries (PEs) in the coal block allocation probe. The first two PEs pertain to coal block allocations to private firms while the third one is on allocations to joint ventures of state and central PSUs with private companies.