We cannot be stopped from probing theft of coal in Bengal: CBI

Mamata govt.’s withdrawal of general consent doesn’t concern railway areas, it says

The CBI informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that the Mamata Banerjee government’s withdrawal of general consent for CBI investigations cannot stop it from probing the massive theft and illegal transportation of coal from the Eastern Coalfield mines by State and Central public sector officials in cahoots with the mafia.

One of the prime accused in the case, Anup Majee, had approached the Supreme Court in appeal against a Calcutta HC order upholding the CBI probe. Majee is a director of a company engaged in the purchase and sale of the dry fuel.

He argued that the State government had withdrawn its general consent to CBI investigations in its territory in 2018 and the case was politically motivated. The West Bengal government side had agreed with Majee’s contentions.

In a counter-affidavit spanning over 850 pages, the CBI, represented by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, replied that its investigation was based on a mandate given by the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC). The Eastern Coalfields Limited had approached the CVC.

“The CBI is under a mandate of the CVC to continue and complete the investigation… The object of the accused persons is to siphon off depleting natural resources for their own gain running into hundreds of crores of rupees, thus leading to a loss of revenue to the Central government,” the CBI affidavit said.

The question of consent “pales into insignificance” when compared to the enormity of loss of public wealth caused by the crime.

“Coal is a very valuable natural resource upon which the energy security of the nation depends,” the CBI stressed.

It said a major part of the crime happened within the “railway area” as the stolen coal was transported by train. Railway areas come within CBI jurisdiction. The withdrawal of consent by the State government does not concern railway areas.

“No permission of the State government is required for the registration of a case carrying out an investigation in the railway area… Even if the State has withdrawn consent for investigation, railway areas constitute the exclusive domain of the CBI. The State police and the Railway Protection Force cannot overlap the power and functions of the CBI,” the affidavit said.

The FIR, registered on November 27 last year, said the Central public sector and local officials in collusion with “certain private persons” illegally extracted, transported and enabled the sale of coal.

The CBI said the investigation has spread its tentacles to more than one State. The offences include criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and misconduct by public servants.

The probe traverses across the leasehold area of the ECL under Kunustoria, Kajora area, district West Burdwan and along the corresponding railway sidings, etc.

In November, the CBI had carried out a massive search operation in a number of locations in West Bengal, Bihar, Jharkhand and Uttar Pradesh.

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