Calcutta High Court okays CBI probe into coal smuggling without West Bengal nod


NEW DELHI: The Calcutta High Court has cleared the decks for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to investigate coal smuggling in poll-bound West Bengal, which had withdrawn its general consent for CBI probes in the state in 2018. A division bench comprising Justices Rajesh Bindal and Aniruddha Roy – staying a single Bench order last week that had restricted the course of investigation to only Railway areas – on Friday held that withdrawal of general consent will have no effect on “the Railway areas”.

The ruling is significant as the case pertains to illegal mining and transportation of coal through Railways in connivance with officers of the Eastern Coalfield Ltd, Railways, Central Industrial Security Force and some other private persons. “During investigation carried out so far, it has come on record that the area of offence is not limited to West Bengal as it has offshoots in other states as well. However, the matter is still being investigated,” according to the order, which ET has seen.

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The High Court further said that “investigation into the railway areas is one of the major parts of the investigation as the coal illegally removed from the mines was transported through railways starting from the railway siding in the mining area to different places. It cannot be disputed that the property of railways is interconnected throughout the country”.

The High Court said, “from a plain reading of the FIR it cannot be suggested that the offence has been committed at one place as these are chain of events which are interlinked with the railways and other officers, including those of Para-Military Force, namely CISF, who are drawing salaries from the Central Government“.

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The division bench further ruled that proper investigation cannot be carried out if the investigation in such cases is divided in parts, drawing lines on territories once the premier central agency is in the process of investigation.

Earlier, challenging the single Bench order, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta – who appeared on behalf of CBI — had argued that “investigation of a case cannot be circumscribed by territorial jurisdiction”.





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