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CBI, ED submit status reports on coal scam probe

The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Enforcement Directorate (ED) on Wednesday submitted their status reports on the coal block allocation scam investigation to the Supreme Court. The two sets of reports, submitted separately in sealed covers, reportedly contain information about 157 cases being probed.

According to reports, 11 case files are complete and three regular cases have been filed. The agencies are yet to begin investigation against 26 central and 75 state public sector units.

Meanwhile, the hearing — in a case related to Joint Director O P Girhotra’s connections with the Jindal group — before Chief Justice R M Lodha was adjourned till Thursday to enable CBI to disclose the connections of Girhotra.

Prashant Bhushan, appearing for non-government organisation Common Cause, said the officer has a serious conflict of interest. Though Girhotra’s name was withdrawn from the probe against the Jindals, he was still involved in other investigations and had recommended closure of most cases, Bhushan said.

The chief justice said nothing should be done by the prime investigating agency that should shatter public confidence in it. He called attention to the order passed last month that whenever there was a difference of opinion between the junior cadre and the top officers and a case was suggested to be closed, the file should be sent to the Central Vigilance Commission to take a second look at the investigative report.

CBI counsel Amarendra Sharan contended a magistrate had the power under the Criminal Procedure Code to assess the evidence and the chance of successful prosecution. Therefore, that function should be left to the court.  Otherwise, “it would be outsourcing judicial power.”

Prashant Bhushan assailed the role of Sharan who, he said, was taking decisions on his own in most cases. The CBI counsel vehemently protested against the charge.

The court will continue hearing on Thursday about the role of the CVC when the officers of the CBI differ in their views about filing first information reports on the coal block allegations. Earlier, the court had asked the CVC to vet such cases where the superior officers had overruled the recommendations of the investigating officers.

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