NEW DELHI (TIP): The courtmonitored investigation into alleged irregularities in coal block allocations expanded beyond the corridors of the coal ministry with the Centre, under pressure from the Supreme Court, issuing notification permitting CBI to take the probe to Jharkhand and Kerala. Attorney general GE Vahanvati informed a bench of Justice RM Lodha, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph that the department of personnel and training (DoPT) had issued the requisite notification that would empower CBI to investigate coal scamrelated issues in the two states. During the August 29 hearing, CBI had informed the court that the coal scam probe could touch as many as 20 states where it wanted to question several officials of public sector undertakings.

However, only Kerala and Jharkhand gave their consent to the agency to question PSUs officials and conduct investigations, CBI said while complaining that the Centre had not issued the requisite notification despite receiving consent from the two states. The bench had inquired from Vahanvati what impeded issuance of notification to permit CBI to carry on investigations in consenting states. The AG had assured that the notification would be issued soon. But what had annoyed the court was that though CBI had sent the request for permission to extend its probe into states in February, the DoPT had not shown seriousness in dealing with it. Though Vahanvati informed the bench about the notifications for Jharkhand and Kerala, the Centre did not give any information about the status of the CBI’s request for permission to take its investigations to 18 other states. The bench too did not ask the Centre about it. With the probe expanding into states, senior advocate Amarendra Saran requested the court on CBI’s behalf that the agency would need more manpower to deal with the increasing workload and given the court’s desire that the probe should be completed by the end of the year. Saran said CBI would move an application by September 10 seeking three more SP/DSP level officers to bolster the investigating teams headed by three DIGs — Ravi Kant, Amit Kumar and V Murugesan.

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