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High Court refuses to order CBI probe into coal scam

Correspondent

State Vigilance Directorate should be allowed to continue enquiry, it says

CUTTACK: In a major relief to the Orissa government and two Ministers in the Naveen Patnaik Cabinet, the State High Court has refused to order for a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) probe into the alleged multi-crore subsidised linkage coal scam.

Disposing of a PIL seeking the High Court's directive for CBI enquiry into the scam that rocked the State for several months last year, a Division Bench comprising Chief Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice B.N. Mohapatra in its pronouncement made on Monday observed that the State Vigilance Directorate should be allowed to continue its probe in the matter.

“At this stage, direction for CBI probe is not necessary”, the High Court ruled directing the State Vigilance to conduct a thorough enquiry . “We also direct the Vigilance to take appropriate coercive steps against the accused persons (involved in the scam), the Bench said emphasising that the anti-corruption wing of the police should complete the enquiry as soon as possible.

Petitioner Nishikanta Mishra, who is also an advocate of the High Court has however, indicated that he would approach the Supreme Court in a special leave petition (SLP) challenging the High Court ruling.

“We are examining the HC order and we feel we have sufficient grounds to approach the apex court”, the petitioner told this correspondent on Wednesday.

Mishra in June last year had filed the PIL in which at least seven persons, including the director of the State Vigilance were arrayed as opposite parties. Earlier, the Vigilance sleuths had unearthed the scam registering at least 10 criminal cases, including against an IAS officer Srikant Prusty. Two officials of the Orissa Small Industries Corporation (OSIC) were also arrested in this connection.

However, State Urban Development Minister Badri Narayan Patra and School and Mass Education Minister Pratap Jena, who on different occasions headed the OSIC were alleged to have perpetrated the corruption as the irregularities were detected when these political leaders were officiating as President of OSIC.

Opposition leaders were baying for the blood of these two Ministers who, however, survived the Opposition tirade and also retained their Cabinet berths during the last ministerial reshuffle much to the dismay of political obeservers.

Status report

While the PIL was pending disposal, the High Court in August last year had granted anticipatory bails to as many as 20 officials and traders, including BJP leader and former president of Orissa Consumers' Co-operative Federation (OCCF) Golak Mohapatra who were booked by the State Vigilance Directorate for their involvement in linkage coal scam.

Among the accused persons who obtained the anticipatory bails on the day also include Akhila Chandra Jena, former MD of OCCF and former MD of Cuttack DIC Srikant Prusty, IAS, who is now posted as Director of Orissa Secondary Education.

Subsequently, the Vigilance Directorate submitted a status report in the High Court stating that at least 83 witnesses had been examined and a total of 97 documents are seized so far in all the seven criminal cases that have been registered in the matter.

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