The Supreme Court today issued notice to the Centre and the CBI on a plea for a probe by a Special Investigation Team (SIT) into the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocations.
A bench of justices R M Lodha and A R Dave also sought response from them on a Public Interest Litigation seeking cancellation of the licenses granted by the government for coal blocks to various private companies.
The bench, however, refused to stay the licenses, which were allegedly granted in violation of the law.
The court asked the government and the agency to file its comprehensive reply on the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocation within eight weeks and posted the matter for further hearing on January 24.
The bench was hearing a PIL filed by various members of civil society including former CEC N Gopalaswami, ex-Navy chief L Ramdas and former Cabinet Secretary T S R Subramanian, seeking a SIT probe into the alleged scam.
They have alleged the ongoing CBI investigation into the alleged coal block scam is not sufficient and only SIT can conduct an impartial probe in the case, in which names of many ministers and their kith and kin have cropped up.
The alleged coal block allocation scam came under judicial scrutiny on September 14 when the Supreme Court, on a PIL by advocate M L Sharma, had directed the Centre to explain if the guidelines on allotting natural resources to private companies were being strictly followed.
Expanding the ambit of judicial scrutiny of the alleged irregularities, the bench today also issued notice to the CBI on a plea for appointment of a SIT and the cancellation of allocation of 194 coal blocks to various companies.
In the fresh PIL filed by members of civil society and NGO Common Cause, the petitioners sought quashing of the entire allocation of coal blocks to private companies, made by the Centre from 1993 onwards.
"The involvement of senior ministers, public servants, different departments of Centre and state governments concerned in the alleged corruption and bribery by beneficiary companies need to be investigated.
"Considering the magnitude of investigation and possibility of involvement of high public offices, including the PMO, and the fact that CBI functions under the same very government it is supposed to investigate, a court-monitored investigation by an SIT is required to ensure proper investigation in the matter," the petition said.
The petitioners alleged that allotment of coal blocks was non-transparent and conducted in an unfair manner in violation of various rules and procedures.
"That investigation of CBI at the instance of CVC is partial and does not cover the full magnitude of the coal scam. The alleged conspiracy in blocking the policy of competitive bidding and the manner in which the screening committee functioned need to be investigated thoroughly, which involves senior ministers including the highest executive office of the country," the petition said.