Tracing the history of coalgate

Tracing the history of coalgate

The coal scam was exposed in March 2012 when a draft report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) estimating a windfall gain of Rs 10.7 lakh crore got leaked.

The CAG brought down the loss to exchequer to Rs 1.86 lakh crore in its final report in August 2012 but by then the damage had been done for the UPA government. A CBI probe was ordered and then the agency started its tumultuous journey into the case. 

Through twists and unexpected turns, the scam revisited in regular intervals in the past 29 months: From “missing files” to resignation of then Law Minister Ashwani Kumar for “correcting” CBI affidavit and the Supreme Court calling the investigating agency a “cage parrot”.

In between, the government also sought to puncture the CAG’s presumptive loss theory, saying it was flawed and there was no loss, as mining has not been done. It all started with the CAG questioning the government allocating coal blocks without an auction and causing a windfall gain to some companies. 

The CAG felt that the government could auction the coal blocks at least since 2006, after the government got a legal opinion, but chose not to do so.

With the scam exposed, Public Interest Litigations (PILs) were filed in Supreme Court alleging that proper guidelines were not followed during the UPA regime. Later, the court included the allocations since July 14, 1993 and in effect bringing the allocations during NDA rule, too, under the scanner.

While 70 coalmines or blocks were allocated between 1993 and 2005, 53 were allocated in 2006, 52 in 2007, 24 in 2008, 16 in 2009 and 1 in 2010. Out of this, 24 allocations were cancelled.

Even before the final CAG report came, the CVC ordered a CBI inquiry into the scam in May 2012. The agency has so far named several companies and politicians like Naveen Jindal and Vijay Darda in 28 cases it registered.

In one of the cases, it also named business tycoon Kumaramangalam Birla and P C Parakh in an FIR for alleged irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco.

Parakh questioned the move asking CBI how they could not name then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as he was handling the Coal Ministry when the allocation was made.
This case is now headed for closure, as CBI could not gather any evidence of wrongdoing.

The case also witnessed a twist in August last year when the then Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal claimed that some crucial files went missing. 

Last year, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha also admitted before the SC that its initial report on the scam had been shared with the then Law Minister as well as bureaucrats from the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office. He also said certain changes had been made to the report. 

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