A non-governmental organisation Common Cause and some eminent persons like former cabinet secretary TSR Subramanian, ex-chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami and other petitioners have filed the PIL.
They demanded cancellation of the coal fields besides a SIT probe into the arbitrary allocation of the blocks to private firms. The Comptroller and Auditor General had stated in its report that the ruling UPA allotted 142 blocks in all without transparency between 2005 and 2009.
Estimating that the private companies which were given coal blocks made a "windfall gain" of nearly Rs 1.86 lakh crore, the CAG noted that the loss to the exchequer would have been far less if the government had gone in for auction.
Today, the Supreme Court bench of Justices RM Lodha and Anil R Dave issued notices to the Centre and the CBI after senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan who appeared on behalf of Common Cause and the other petitioners argued that the CBI is unsuitable to investigate the matter since union ministers, their relatives and several influential persons are involved in the scam.
Pointing out that the CBI has so far only conducted a probe against some companies which received the blocks illegally, Bhushan rued that the CBI has ignored the shocking irregularities in the allocation process.
"Considering the magnitude of investigation and the possibility of involvement of high public offices, including the PMO, and the fact that CBI functions under the same very government it is supposed to investigate, a court-monitored investigation by an SIT is required to ensure proper investigation in the matter," the PIL said.
Appearing for the Centre, Attorney General GE Vahanvati told the court that the government will reply to Common Cause's PIL and also another petition filed by an advocate ML Sharma regarding Coalgate.
The apex court fixed the next hearing on both petitions for Jan 24, 2013.