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Prashant Bhushan clashes with CBI counsel in coal scam hearing, as SC pulls up slow Gujarat

The Supreme Court Monday asked Gujarat’s chief secretary to explain as to why cooperation was not being extended to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) by providing the investigating agency with the documents relating to Naini and Morga-II coal blocks.

A bench of Justice Madan B Lokur, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice AK Sikri sought the explanation after the court was told that state government has not so far complied with the court’s Dec 8, 2014, order directing it provide documents pertaining to these coal blocks.

Naini coal block was jointly allocated to Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation and Pondicherry Industrial Development Corporation and Morga-II coal block was allocated to Gujarat Mineral Development Corporation.

At the outset of the hearing, the court asked senior counsel Amarendra Saran, appearing for the CBI, about the compliance of its order by Gujarat and on being told the state had done so, sought an explanation.

The Dec 8 direction had come after the CBI in its status report on the investigation told the court that it could not complete probe in Niani and Morga-II coal blocks as Gujarat government had not provided it with documents despite repeated written and oral requests to the state government.

“We expect the chief secretary and the government of Gujarat to comply with the requisition made by the CBI without further delay,” the order had said.

Meanwhile, the court Monday asked the CBI to file its response to the plea by NGO Common Cause seeking court monitored SIT probe into role of the former CBI director Ranjit Sinha in the alleged derailment of investigation into irregularities in allocation of coal mines to Nagpur based Darda family which owns the Lokmat group of newspapes.

Appearing for the NGO, counsel Prashant Bhushan told the court of three cases against Dardas, the then CBI director had opined filing of closure report in two cases and in another he had sought the legal opinion to allegedly dilute it.

Giving the details of three cases, Bhushan said that said that “issue is not that special judge had rejected the closure report and ordered further investigation or public prosecutor’s disagreement” but efforts to close the cases when in two cases, the investigating officer, superintendent of police, deputy inspector general of police and public prosecutor were in favour of launching prosecution.

In one case, the public prosecutor differed with the opinion of the investigating officer, SP and DIG

Bhushan launched a scathing attack on Sinha, saying: “We don’t know what would be uncovered in other cases.”

As CBI counsel Amarendra Saran sought to describe the plea by Bhushan as “something of a personal vendetta”, the court said: “We have to take a call on it and take a view.”

At this court asked Saran if he would like to address the application by way of response as it directed the listing of matter for further hearing on Feb 16.

The court Feb 16 will also take up hearing an application by Sinha alleging perjury by Bhushan, whose statements, according to the former CBI chief, were meant for media persons present in the court.

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