The Centre and the CBI faced off before the Supreme Court over the coal scam on Tuesday, with the investigating agency pointing out flaws in the coal block allocation process.
To ensure there is no political interference, the court asked the investigating agency not to share its probe report with the government.
This is the first time the Central Bureau of Investigation has pointed out irregularities in coal block allocations held during the UPA-1 tenure before the apex court.
In its status report, the CBI stated there was no system to evaluate the eligibility of companies before allocating mining blocks to them.
The Comptroller and Auditor General estimates that the scam caused a loss of Rs. 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer.
"During 2006-09, 2,100 applications were received. Only 151 companies were given 68 coal blocks. Why others were not found eligible is anybody’s guess. We have to examine within the four corners whether selection was rational or just pick and choose,” a bench headed by justice RM Lodha told attorney general GE Vahanvati.
Warning the government that “the entire allocation goes if no procedure was followed", the court gave the CBI director a week to file an affidavit affirming the present status report was vetted by him, not shared with “political executive” and that the same would not be done in the future.
Vahanvati hit back, saying that the CBI did not have a final word on the matter, and added that it was a fashion to challenge every government policy before the Supreme Court.
Asking Vahanvati to refrain from making statements that might “prejudice” the ongoing probe, the court said, “Your policy must be as strong as a rock. It should be within the constitution. You should not crib about anyone challenging it.” The top law officer clarified that the government wasn’t against a CBI inquiry.
CBI would now file its second report by April 26. The Centre has been given three weeks time to file an additional affidavit detailing what procedure was followed while allocating coal blocks. An earlier affidavit filed by the government failed to impress the bench.