Coal block scam: Special public prosecutor, judge appointed

New Delhi: On the lines of the 2G scam case, the Supreme Court Friday appointed senior counsel R.S. Cheema as the special public prosecutor in the case relating to alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks before a special CBI judge.

A bench of Chief Justice R.M. Lodha, Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph also approved the appointment of Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar as a judge of the special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) court that will hear the case on a day-to-day basis.

Parashar’s name was recommended by the Delhi High Court.

The court gave the authorities two week time to issue notification for the setting of special court to be presided over by Parashar and the appointment of Cheema, who practices in the Punjab and Haryana High Court, as special public prosecutor.

The court also directed that all the matters pending in different court relating to coal blocks allocation scam would stand transferred to the special court.

The apex court July 18 had decided to set up a special court to try cases arising from coal block allocation scam and also appoint a special public prosecutor to lead the prosecution cases before the special court. The chief justice of the Delhi High Court had been asked to name a judge to preside over the special court.

Initially the court discussed a couple of names but all had to be given up following reservation from one quarter or the other.

At this stage, Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh suggested the name of Cheema. The court then asked Singh to ascertain if Cheema was willing to take up the assignment and his name was finalised after his consent.

Allowing an application by the Income Tax department, the court directed the CBI to share information relating to recovery of some cash from an office of Hindalco, an Aditya Birla company.

The court also directed the CBI to file an update report on its investigation into criminality dimension of the coal block allocation scam and file the report by Aug 25 as it directed the listing of the matter on Sep 1.

The court meanwhile dismissed an application by advocate M.L. Sharma seeking a CBI probe against Congress president Sonia Gandhi, former prime minister Manmohan Singh’s principal secretary T.K.A. Nair, former power secretaries V.S. Sampath and H.S. Brahma, and former home secretary R.K. Singh to ascertain their role, if any, in the scam and the acquisition of tribal land.

Sampath, the power secretary in 2008, is at present the chief election commissioner. He was succeeded in 2009 by Brahma, who is one of the two election commissioners.

The court opted for appointing the special public prosecutor to put in place a mechanism so that it could know how objective were the conclusions based on the material before the investigating agency.

The court thought of taking the route of special public prosecutors to vet the CBI reports, as CBI had resisted the move to send all its reports to the Central Vigilance Commission for scrutiny where it was filing the closure report or there were differences within the agency on the course to be adopted in a particular case.