Coal block allocation case: Plea in SC to expedite case against Odisha CM Naveen

Bhubaneswar: That the Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik was interrogated by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on November 25, 2017, in connection with a coal block allocation case, came to fore just a few days ahead of the general elections and a petition was filed on Monday over the inordinate delay in the case.

An impleadment application was filed in the Supreme Court on Monday, seeking expediting the CBI investigation in a coal block allocation case in which an inquiry was pending against Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, ANI reported. It has been five years since the case was registered.

As per the petition of one Vaibhav Verma, MS Central collieries Co Ltd & Ors (Nagpur) was awarded the Takli-Jena-Bellora coalfield in Maharashtra in 1998, even before its registration. Naveen Patnaik was the then Union Minister of Mines thus making his role questionable.

The CBI has already interrogated Naveen on the issue and thus, there’s no reason to delay the case, the plea said, adding: “Patnaik has already been interrogated by the CBI on 25.11.2017. That after interrogation of Patnaik, there is no reason for delay; however as evident, again there is a delay of almost two years since his interrogation and the CBI is yet to complete its investigation and has failed to take any concrete steps despite the fact that Supreme Court is monitoring the coal block cases.”

The case was registered on March 26, 2014, and the CBI investigation into the allocation of captive coalfields was part of Supreme Court-monitored probe between 1993 and 2010. The allegations in the case are those of forgery, criminal breach of trust and selling of coal in the open market against the concept of captive allocation of coal mines for a specified end-use product, stated the application.

Expressing concerns, the plea further mentioned: “It is very frequently seen in high profile financial offences involving high ranking officials, with the passage of time, witnesses can be won over and the documentary evidence may be tampered with. In view of this, it is imperative that SC intervenes and passes appropriate directions in the interest of justice.”

Speaking to OTV through a telephonic conversation, petitioner Vaibhav Verma said, “I just wanted CBI to do its job since it is a very important issue. Every known political party is involved in it.”

Lawyer Sarthak Nayak said, “The CBI had already interrogated Odisha CM Naveen when the Supreme Court had not issued any order, so it proves that the petitioner had a credible plea. Now he has reiterated his petition once more seeking that since the interrogation has been done, the apex court should make a conclusive hearing on the case.”

It is pertinent to mention here that the then CBI director Ranjit Sinha (when an FIR was lodged in this connection in 2014) had met the Odisha CM when he was on a four-day visit to the State from March 1. Sinha then met Patnaik for about 10 minutes but when asked about details of the meeting by reporters, he said, “It was a courtesy call.”

Odisha BJP had then questioned the CBI director’s meeting with Odisha CM and sought an explanation from both of them.

Moreover, the plea filed in the SC has also brought in important details about Sinha’s role (as observed by the SC) while mentioning that the CBI director Ranjit Sinha had met some accused at his residence in the absence of investigation officer. “The meeting of CBI director with accused persons in the absence of investigation team was seen by this court as an attempt to scuttle the investigation,” it mentioned.

Meanwhile, BJD’s Pinaki Mishra said, “It’s a contemptible issue. The issue is 21 years old. It relates to a time when Naveen Patnaik was holding additional charge of Coal Ministry for about a couple of months only.”

He further said that the issue never came up when Patnaik was holding additional charge and so he has no role to play in the case. “Repeated attempts have been made to try and rope him in by Centre. It’s being driven by unholy cash generated by some vested interests attempting to play a dirty game,” Mishra alleged.

Targeting the BJD and MP Pinaki Mishra for his comments defending coal block allocation case against Odisha CM Naveen, Union Petroleum Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said, “I came to know about the irregularities & CBI inquiry against CM from media & there is no need for Pinaki to rush to conclusions as these are only preliminary facts.”

OPCC chief Niranjan Patnaik also trained his guns towards ruling-BJD and CM Naveen. While the CBI had framed a charge sheet against Dilip Ray why has it not done it against Naveen Babu. It is because, the CM of the State has been a terrified ally of PM Modi.”

(With ANI Inputs)