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Coalgate: CBI officer says need to examine PM, director says not now

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the government would carry out a thorough investigation and ensure that the culprit was brought to justice.

The probe into coal block allocations has been a burning issue not only in Parliament and the apex court but now also within the Central Bureau of Investigation. This time, the heat has been generated within the agency over the need to “examine” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who held the Coal portfolio between 2006 and 2009.

Full text: Manmohan’s statement on missing coal files

Top sources told The Indian Express that in the progress report prepared last month, CBI’s superintendent of police K R Chaurasia, an investigating officer in the case, put on record what he called the “requirement” to examine the Prime Minister among a lengthy list of “pending actions” in the case.

CBI hands over fresh list of missing coal files to AG

These included examination of various other government and non-government officials as well as exhaustive scrutiny of records.

Related: I am not the custodian of coal ministry files: PM

When contacted, CBI director Ranjit Sinha declined to comment. But sources told The Indian Express that when the file reached him last month, he is said to have clearly noted that “at this stage,” the PM’s examination wasn’t required.

Related: PM promises probe if files are not traced in 2 weeks

The contentious proposal came at a time when the Supreme Court has been pushing the CBI to wrap up its investigation and the Coal Ministry is scurrying around trying to locate crucial files.

The CBI progress report was subsequently seen by Chaurasia’s seniors but reportedly without any specific comments on the issue of the PM’s examination.

It was only after the report by Chaurasia was signed off by Deputy Inspector General Ravi Kant (who was reinstated as a member of the coal probe team by the Supreme Court); Joint Director O P Galhotra and Additional Director R K Dutta that Director Ranjit Sinha found he had stepped into the minefield.

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