Questions the CBI should answer before closing its probe in the Jindal coal block case

Even under the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance, the Central Bureau of Investigation’s inquiries into the captive coalblock allocation scam continue to be half-hearted. In the latest instance, as the Indian Express reported on April 2, India’s apex investigating agency has closed its probe into how former Congress Member of Parliament Naveen Jindal’s Jindal Steel and Power Limited landed the Ramchandi Promotional coalblock in Odisha.

This was one of two blocks allotted by the previous United Progressive Alliance government – not for captive use – but to convert the coal in these blocks to oil using a technology that had never been used before in India. The other block was North of Arkhapal Srirampur in the same state. It went to Strategic Energy Technology Systems Limited – a joint venture between India’s Tata Group and South Africa’s Sasol, an energy and chemicals company.

Controversy surrounded these allocations from the start.

And so, it is surprising to see the CBI’s explanation for wanting to close the probe. This, of course, is an old pattern. Back in 2014 too, the CBI was closing coal cases with gusto. See this. And this.

on the CBI’s decision to start filing closure reports…

in the past few days, india’s central bureau of investigation (CBI), one of the country’s apex investigating bodies, has closed some of the FIRs it had registered while peering into the captive coalblock allocations. the reason it cited was ‘insufficient evidence’. more recently, unnamed CBI officials have been giving interviews saying that there is no corruption in coal, that it was merely an administrative lapse.

today’s story, which examines the CBI’s grounds for making such claims, makes two large points. first, it says, the CBI’s logic for wanting to close cases citing insufficient proof is based on the argument that misrepresentation is not always cheating — especially since the allocation framework was poorly defined. both of which, as defences go, are flawed. second, large parts of the process followed for coal block allocation have not been scrutinised by the CBI. like the ‘Inter Se’ — comparision sheets created by the coal ministry to judge relative merits of coalblock applicants — recommendations that were rarely followed.

for that and more, see today’s story, here. you might also want to see this composite link containing the stories by my colleagues john, avinash, supriya and me on coalgate.