New Delhi: CBI today started probe against 24 companies and public officials in connection with alleged irregularities in coal block allocations between 1993 and 2004, including during the NDA regime.
Agency sources said a preliminary inquiry has been registered after Central Vigilance Commission referred the complaints from Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal and seven Congress Members of Parliament seeking CBI probe in allocation of coal blocks during NDA rule as well.
The allocation of coal blocks to private companies for captive use started in 1993 when Coal Mines (Nationalisation) Act, 1973 was ammended with the objective of attracting private investments in specified end uses such as power, cement and steel because of growing economy.
Jaiswal along with seven parliamentarians has sought probe since 1993 and submitted a list of 24 beneficiaries companies, some of which have got captive coal blocks as part of joint ventures with state government, which would be under probe of the agency, they said.
The sources said the agency would now approach coal ministry and state governments seeking records related to allocation of coal blocks to these companies.
"Investigation must cover what system they (state governments) adopted to ensure transparent allocation, and what criteria and selected guidelines were adopted and followed by state government, what method of due-diligence were employed for the same," the MPs wrote in the letter apprehending many cases of malpractices during the NDA rule.
Between 1993-2004, 43 coal blocks were allotted by the Government.
In its ongoing probe, CBI has so far registered seven FIRs against private companies and unknown public officials for alleged misrepresentation of facts.
"Till March 2011, the Ministry of Coal has allocated 194 coal blocks for captive mining of which 142 were explored blocks and the balance 52 were either regionally explored or unexplored coal blocks," Comptroller and Auditor General has said in its recent report on coal block allocation.
Last week, Jaiswal wrote to Central Vigilance Commission seeking a CBI probe into all the coal blocks allocated since 1993 when Government had started allocation to private players for captive use.
Jaiswal had also annexed letters written by seven parliamentarians to the CVC saying that blocks allotted
between 1993 and 2004 including those given during the NDA rule should be investigated by the CBI, as allegedly favours were done to private parties under political pressure.
The letter of MPs also sought for enquiry as to what system the Government of India put in place for selection of companies for coal block allocation between 1993 to 2004 and whether these guidelines were followed and how were joint venture partners selected.