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Published On: Mon, Jan 23rd, 2017

SC directs CBI to start probe against ex-chief Ranjit Sinha in coal gate scam

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CBI-chief-Ranji20207NEW DELHI : Ranjit Sinha, who headed the country’s premier investigating agency, will himself be the focus of an enquiry to ascertain whether he misused his power, the Supreme Court said today.
“A prima facie case can be made against him,” the court said while refraining to express any opinion on the veracity of the allegations. A bench headed by justice Madan B. Lokur also asked to fast track the investigation as the case is in public interest.

Common Cause, a non-profit led by advocate Prashant Bhushan, had moved the apex court alleging that entries in the visitor’s diary of Sinha’s residence showed that he met with several people accused in the coal scam while CBI was conducting its investigation. He was the special director of the CBI at that time.

The apex court in September 2015 appointed a team led by former CBI special director M.L. Sharma to probe if “investigations conducted by the CBI have been influenced in any manner by Mr. Ranjit Sinha in respect of the accused in the coal block allocation case.”
Mr Sinha, as CBI chief, met at his home with several of the suspects accused of corruption and bribe-giving in the allocation of coal fields to private firms. The swindle, dubbed Coal-Gate, was executed when Dr Manmohan Singh was Prime Minister.

It is the new CBI chief, Alok Verma, who will be in charge of the investigation against Mr Sinha, judges ruled today. The post-mortem will determine if Mr Sinha worked to thwart his agency’s case against the people who he met privately as often as “50-60 times” according to earlier updates provided to the Supreme Court.
Judges had last year accepted as authentic a visitors’ book from Mr Sinha’s home furnished as evidence of inappropriate appointments in 2014 with those under investigation for serious criminal charges.

In 2012, the national auditor said that the process of allotting coal fields without transparency and at depressed prices, the country had lost up to 1.86 lakh crores or about 33 billion dollars. The Supreme Court in 2014 said the allocations of coal mining rights over a decade stood cancelled.
Prime Minister Manomhan Singh has not been charged with any crime, but has been investigated for criminal breach of trust and conspiracy in the allocation of a coal field in 2005 to Hindalco Industries, part of the $40 billion Aditya Birla Group, which has denied that it manipulated the government and its processes.

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