The CBI has registered a case into alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Kilhoni coal block in Maharashtra to a private firm in 1998, when Atal Bihari Vajpayee was the Prime Minister.
The corruption case against Nippon Denro Ispat Limited (NDIL) was registered on a complaint filed by six then Congress MPs, including Sandeep Dikshit and Manickam Tagore, who alleged malpractices in the allocation of coal blocks between 1993 and 2004. The CBI had launched its preliminary inquiry into the matter on September 26, 2012.
The CBI's first information report claimed that Kilhoni did not feature in the list of blocks meant to be offered for captive mining, and the apex committee of the Coal India Limited had not agreed to allocate it to NDIL either. Despite this, the block was awarded to the private firm at the 13th meeting of the screening committee on August 24, 1998, it said.
According to the probe agency's report, NDIL had first approached the Ministry of Coal with a plea that it be given the Kilhoni coal block in 1997. Its request was rejected because the block was reserved for the Maharashtra government. The private firm approached the ministry again in April 28, and a directive that Kilhoni be included in the list of blocks offered for captive mining was finally sent out to Coal India Limited in August 1998.
"Although the Kilhoni was not included in the list of blocks for captive mining and the 12th Screening Committee did not agree to allocate it to NDIL, the 13th Screening Committee went ahead with the allocation," it said.
The case was filed by the CBI after a preliminary inquiry that extended over seven years. "The... information discloses that Nippon Denro Ispat Ltd, along with unidentified public servants, cheated the Government of India in a criminal conspiracy and committed offences punishable under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and... Prevention of Corruption Act," the FIR read.
NDIL has now changed its title to JSW Ispat Steel Limited, becoming a part of the JSW Group. Coal blocks allocated to NDIL between 1993 and 1997 are also being probed by the central agency.
(With inputs from PTI)