The apex court of the country has issued notice to CBI and Central Government in a matter related to West Bengal Coal Mining Scam.
The notices were issued on Monday (February 22, 2021) when the Supreme court was considering a plea filed by one of the accused in the West Bengal Coal Mining Scam. The plea was filed challenging an order by a Single Judge Bench of Calcutta High Court. The said order allowed CBI to investigate the West Bengal Coal Scam within the 'Railway area' of the State.
The alleged scam involves illegal mining of coal from mining areas in the state of West Bengal. The mined coal was later transported using the Railways. The involvement of officers of the Eastern Coalfield Limited, Railways, C.I.S.F. and some other private persons are being probed by CBI.
An FIR has been registered by CBI for offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants and criminal misconduct by public servants by dishonestly or fraudulently misappropriating the property entrusted to them or any property under their control as public servants or allowing other persons to do so.
Back in 2018, the West Bengal government had withdrawn the general consent given to CBI to investigate offences that happen within the state. Consent of the state government is mandatory for the CBI to file FIR and investigate cases within a state according to Section 6 of the Delhi Police Special Police Establishment Act, 1946. Now CBI is supposed to seek the consent of the State Government on a case-by-case basis.
It is the contention of the Petitioner, Anup Majee, that CBI has received no such consent in the Coal Scam Case. In the petition filed at the Calcutta High Court, the Single Judge bench held that CBI does not require the consent of the state government to investigate in 'Railway area' of the state as railways are under Central Control. But the CBI preferred an appeal to the Division Bench of the court. The Division Bench stayed the Single Bench decision and allowed the CBI to carry on with its investigation of the case unhindered.
Senior Advocate Mukul Rohatgi appearing for the Petitioner argued that the intra-court appeal before the Division Bench is a violation of the High Court Rules and the judgement is invalid. He further clarified that the Petitioner is challenging the division Bench order which allowed the appeal by CBI as it is without jurisdiction. He also informed the Court that the order of the Single Bench of Calcutta High Court is itself wrong and was rightly stayed by the Division Bench as the term ‘Railway Area’ is not well defined.
Dr AM Singhvi appearing for the West Bengal Government also agreed with the Petitioner that the CBI cannot investigate the scam without the consent of the state and that no such consent was given.
The Supreme Court said that it wants to hear the CBI and Central Government on the matter and posted the matter for next Monday.
Mr Rohatgi then asked for interim protection from coercive action for the Petitioner. The court refused to grant such protection stating that no action against the Petitioner is likely in the interim period.