The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Monday expanded the scope of its probe into the ‘coalgate’ scam to include all mines allotted to private firms since 1993.
This means investigating the allotments by the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance regime from 1998 to 2004 as well as those given during United Front rule in 1996-98.
The practice of granting captive coal blocks to private power, steel and cement companies began in 1993, following an amendment to the Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act.
CBI spokesperson Dharini Mishra told HT the investigating authority had expanded probe’s scope following a direction from the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), India’s statutory anti-corruption watchdog.
The CVC’s recommendations to the CBI comes days after coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal endorsed and forwarded a letter by seven Congress MPs who had demanded a comprehensive probe into all captive coal blocks allocated since 1993.
"The CVC has noted the viewpoints of coal minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and has forwarded the letter to the CBI, asking it to take action,” a top government source told HT.
The move was “aimed” at ensuring a “clean-up” of the coal block allocation process in the country, the source added.
The CBI has so far booked seven companies for alleged irregularities such as selling their stakes at a premium on the strength of having unused coal reserves.
The BJP has accused the government of using the CBI for alleged vested political interests.
"We are not worried about the CVC asking the CBI to probe coal block allocations from 1993 as the NDA has nothing to hide. The issue here is who is bringing in the 1993 period and why. It is the Congress, which has been demanding this as it wants to delay everything,” said BJP spokesperson Prakash Javadekar.