Government favours allegedly extended to top corporate houses such as Mukesh Ambani's Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL), Anil Ambani's ADAG group, and the Tatas, as well as the alleged manipulation of Unitech stocks will now be investigated by the CBI.
The Supreme Court has directed the agency to probe 14 instances of corruption arising out of the Niira Radia tapes. A bench headed by justice GS Singhvi gave the order on Thursday but it was officially released on Saturday.
After scanning the transcripts of 5,800 tapped conversations Radia held with politicians, bureaucrats and industrialists, the CBI had in its status report listed out 23 issues it felt needed criminal investigation. Of these, the SC referred 14 to the agency. It said the conversations suggested “unscrupulous elements had used corrupt means to secure favours from government officers”.
The CBI will investigate “favours” shown by former director general of directorate general of Hydrocarbon, VK Sibal, to RIL and the quid pro quo allegedly received. It would also look into the allotment of coal blocks to the ADAG group-run Sasan Power Project and of iron ore mines in Jharkhand to Tata Steel.
A Reliance ADAG release said the company welcomed "independent time-bound enquiries by the CBI, which will clearly establish the company’s bona fides. It would once and for all prove beyond a doubt that we have been the unfortunate victims of a mischievous campaign of calumny and vilification conducted at the behest of our unscrupulous corporate rivals over the past five years”.
The RIL spokesperson declined comment.
Among other issues to be probed are kickbacks in the aviation sector, bribes paid to tax officers, the appointment of former Telecom Regulatory Authority of India chief Pradip Baijal as Pipeline Advisory Committee chairman, and the working of touts. The supply of low-floor buses by Tata Motors to the Tamil Nadu government under a central scheme is also under the scanner.
A Tata Motors spokesperson said, "The matter is sub-judice, hence we cannot comment on any specifics. Suffice it to say, we will offer full cooperation in any inquiry by any government agency.”