SC: Govt changed heart of coal probe report

NEW DELHI: In a series of scathing observations, a furious Supreme Court today blasted the government, the CBI, the PMO officials and the law officers over the coal scam report and said that "the heart of the report was changed on the directions of the government."

The SC also observed that the government was sharing reports with officials whose departments are under a scanner.

The next hearing in the case will be held on July 10.

'CBI cannot interact with govt on this issue without SC nod'

The Supreme Court said that the government will have to take its permission before it interacts with the CBI. "No interaction is allowed with permission of the court," the Supreme Court said.

The court also observed that there was no substantial progress in the coal scam probe.

The Supreme Court restores transferred probe officer CBI DIG Ravi Kant to head the probe panel. The SC had sought details of the officers of the CBI engaged in investigating coal scam and did not approve of the supervising officer Ravi Kant being allowed to be transferred to the Intelligence Bureau.

"The CBI must know how to stand up against all pulls and pressures by government and its officials," the Supreme Court told the CBI.

The CBI, in its affidavit, had later revealed that its status report had been shared with Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, the Attorney General, the Prime Minister's Office and the officials from the coal ministry.

'The CBI is like a caged parrot'

Expressing serious concern over the government's growing interference in the CBI's working, the Supreme Court said: "It's a sordid saga that there are many masters and one parrot," SC says after going through CBI director's affidavit on the coal scam probe. The SC pulls up Joint Secretaries of PMO and Coal Ministry for meeting CBI officials and suggesting changes in the draft report. "How on earth did joint secretaries of PMO, coal ministry attend meetings, see the report. Is the CBI a collaborator or investigator?"

Attorney General GE Vahanvati said that he had "neither asked for, nor have I got the probe report. I met CBI officials only on the suggestion of the law minister."

The Supreme Court was scrutinizing whether the changes in the CBI affidavit on Coalgate were done with the intention of shielding someone in the government.

The Supreme Court also said that ministers can ask for status of investigation, but cannot interfere with it.

The apex court observed, "Affidavit shows that CBI has many masters. Every word stated must be within four corners of the law."

Recently the government had landed in a soup after it was reported that the Minister of Law and Justice Ashwani Kumar had influenced a report submitted by the CBI to the country's Supreme Court on coal-block allocations to private firms between 2006 and 2009.

The SC emphasised that the CBI must be made independent and the government must avoid any external influence on the investigation agency in future. The SC stated, "If CBI is not made independent, we will step in."

Law minister to quit?

Meanwhile, a CNN-IBN report suggested that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar might resign today evening. Also the two bureaucrats pulled up by the Supreme Court, from the PMO and coal ministry, are likely to be transferred, the television channel reported.

The SC told the CBI that the probe report is not a progress report to be shared with government and its officials.

"Court gave you strength 15 years ago to be like rock but you are like sand," the Supreme Court said, reported television channel Times Now.

The court has also said that it wants proper investigations in the case, and laid down a three-pointer for the agency:

1.    Should a retired judge supervise the investigations?

2.    Does the CBI need more technical experts to probe?

3.    Or should CBI alone should investigate the case?

BJP wants Law Minister to go

Meanwhile, the BJP has said that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar should resign immediately. "Law Minister should go forthwith. He should resign immediately or sacked," BJP leader Venkaiah Naidu said.
"We will go from the Parliament to the people," the BJP leader said, adding that it was high time that the government went.