By LE Desk
New Delhi, March 10: The consent of the Bengal government is not needed to investigate the coal scam in the state, the Central Bureau of Investigation told the Supreme Court on Wednesday.
The top court is hearing petitions which oppose the probe, pointing out that the timing is suspect as elections are due in the state by the end of this month. The agency had earlier questioned Rujira Banerjee — the wife of Mamata Banerjee’s nephew Abhishek Banerjee — in the case.
In an affidavit in court on Wednesday, the CBI said it is duty-bound to carry out the orders of the Vigilance Commission following an order by the top court, NDTV reported. In this case, the Central Vigilance Commission had directed the CBI to continue the investigation following a complaint by the Eastern Coalfields.
The offence happened at an area under the control of the Railways, so Bengal’s withdrawal of consent for investigation does not matter.
The agency also added that earlier, the Uttar Pradesh government had transferred a similar case of illegal coal extraction to it.
In its affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, the CBI said, officers of the Public Sector Unit, in collusion with private persons, were illegally extracting and transporting coal. This, the agency said, happens in more than one state.
The agency argued that it has the powers to investigate employees of Central government and there is no need for the consent of the state government.
The court had issued notice to the CBI on a plea against the Calcutta High Court’s order permitting the agency to continue its probe. One of the accused, Anup Majee, had approached the top court after his appeal was turned down by the High Court.
The state had supported the accused, saying in November 2018 it withdrew consent for the CBI to conduct investigations in the state.
The case will be heard next on March 15.
With weeks to go before the state elections, the coal scam investigation has acquired political colour. Last month, the agency had turned up at the doorstep of Abhishek Banerjee, the nephew of Mamata Banerjee, to question his wife.
There are allegations that the coal mafia had paid regular kickbacks to leaders of Bengal’s ruling Trinamool Congress. The money was channelled through Vinay Mishra, the general secretary of the party’s youth wing which is headed by Abhishek Banerjee.
Vinay Mishra is on the run. The agency has issued a non-bailable warrant against him.
“At 2pm today, the CBI served a notice in the name of my wife. We have full faith in the law of the land. However, if they think they can use these ploys to intimidate us, they are mistaken. We are not the ones who would ever be cowed down,” Abhishek Banerjee had tweeted.