The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is probing possible corruption in the sale of coal concessions to private companies, it said today, as the affair dubbed "Coal-gate" caused uproar in Parliament, paralysing it for a second day in a row.
The CBI is investigating suspected collusion between state officials and private companies in underpriced sales of coalfields that the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) said last week may have cost the exchequer as much as Rs. 1.86 lakh in lost revenues.
The CBI said it would submit its report to the government's anti-graft body, the Central Vigilance Commission, by September 1.
A CBI official, who declined to be named, said investigators had travelled to more than 50 locations throughout the country and pored over hundreds of government documents, looking for irregularities involving more than a dozen private and public companies that bought coal blocks between 2005 and 2009.
"The agency is inquiring into possible collusion between private companies and public servants," the official said.
One focus of the agency's investigation is whether the companies that bought the coalfields did so with the intention of mining them or reselling them at a profit.
In 1976, the government started allowing the sale of so-called "captive" coal blocks to energy-intensive private companies involved in the production of iron, steel and cement.
The government has awarded a net total of 195 blocks with reserves of 44.23 billion tonnes to a variety of industrial projects. But as of March only 28 of these were operating, with output at just 38 million tonnes a year.
The state auditor said an inter-ministerial committee was responsible for awarding the coal concessions but that it was not clear from the minutes of the committee's meetings how they arrived at their decisions.
© Thomson Reuters 2012