Coalgate: Ashwani Kumar meets Manmohan Singh, could be replaced by senior minister

New Delhi, May 9 (ANI): A day after the Supreme Court's critical observation about the government's interference in a CBI probe of the coal block allocation scam, Union Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar is reported to have met Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh here on Thursday.

Television reports also said that Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati had also met Dr. Singh.

However, there was no immediate word on what transpired at these two meetings.

Television channels were quoting sources as saying that a senior minister maybe asked to replace Kumar in the Ministry of Law and Justice, but this is yet to be confirmed.

The meetings with Prime Minister Dr. Singh came shortly after Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha accepted the Supreme Court's observations on the CBI's role in the coal block allocation probe issue, saying that whatever the court has said is correct.

The apex court had on Wednesday pulled up the CBI, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Coal Ministry officials for changing the "heart" of the coal scam probe report and directed the government to come out with a law before July 10 to insulate the agency from "external influence and intrusion".

Even as it came down heavily on these entities, the apex court also made a reference to Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar's role in vetting the probe report and asked, "does it not subvert the integrity of the investigation if changes are brought in status report on the suggestion of Law Minister and government officers."

The coal scam concerns the government's allocation of the nation's coal deposits to public sector entities (PSEs) and private companies by Manmohan Singh.

In a draft report issued in March 2012, the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) office accused the government of allocating coal blocks in an inefficient manner during the period 2004-2009.

Over the Summer of 2012, the BJP lodged a complaint resulting in a Central Bureau of Investigation probe into whether the allocation of the coal blocks was in fact influenced by corruption.

The essence of the CAG"s argument is that the government had the authority to allocate coal blocks by a process of competitive bidding, but chose not to.

As a result both public sector enterprises (PSEs) and private firms paid less than they might have otherwise.

In its draft report in March this year, the CAG estimated that the "windfall gain" to the allocatees was Rs.10673.03 billion (approximately USD 200 billion).

The CAG Final Report tabled in Parliament put the figure at Rs.1855.91 billion (approximately USD 34 billion)

On August 27, 2012, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh read a statement in Parliament rebutting the CAG"s report both in its reading of the law and the alleged cost of the government"s policies.

Former senior police officers have also by and large welcomed the Supreme Court's strictures against the government and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI)in the coal block allocation scam report/affidavit. (ANI)