Last year in March the government had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28 were awarded to companies owned by family members of the former ED official
New Delhi: Just a week after filing cases in coal block allocation scam, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has begun probing alleged irregularities in the country's first-ever attempt to explore untapped mineral wealth worth thousands of crores lying in the deep sea bed, sensing another mega scam, reports PTI.
CBI sources said a preliminary enquiry has been registered by the agency in connection with the alleged favours extended to the companies by the unknown officials of the Indian Bureau of Mines (IBM) while awarding licences for exploring minerals in the sea bed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
It is alleged four beneficiaries companies owned by the family members of an Indian Revenue Service (IRS) officer are also under the agency's scanner as they bagged nearly half of the blocks despite lacking necessary qualification, they said.
The sources said in March last year government, in a first attempt to explore offshore mineral wealth, had placed 62 blocks on offer out of which 28, nearly half, were awarded to companies owned by family members of the former Enforcement Directorate official who had also served in Mines Ministry.
The final award of licences had been put on hold after aggrieved parties approached the Bombay High Court and the Andhra Pradesh High Court seeking their cancellation.
The companies allegedly owned by the son and brother of the officer are based at the same address on Kasturba Gandhi Marg in the national capital, they said.
It is alleged that companies were incorporated after bids were invited from the interested parties willing to go for exploration and did not have any experience in offshore mining at the time of notification.
The CBI sources said it is a matter of probe how these companies with such alleged lacunae managed to score over rival firms which were in fray for the lucrative contracts.
Sources claimed it has been alleged that at screening committee level the companies belonging to the kin of the officer scored much above the rival firms.
Indian Bureau of Mines, which works under the Ministry of Mines, had announced in March last year the list of companies that had won the bids of exploration of mineral wealth.
However, the Nagpur bench of the Bombay High Court had stayed the execution after accepting the plea of Tamil Nadu- based company Rare (H) minerals.
"Controller General, Indian Bureau of Mines has issued a notification dated 7 June, 2010 inviting applications for the grant of Exploration Licence in the offshore areas of the country. About 377 applications have been received in IBM for grant of exploration licence," the Ministry of Mines had said in a statement last year.
The sources said that each block measuring about 800 sq km is estimated to have huge unexplored mineral wealth in the sea bed of Bay of Bengal and Arabian Sea.
A similar case is also going on in the Andhra Pradesh High Court after a company, Trimex Sands, challenged the award of exploration licence.
There has been a demand from several quarters for speedy implementation of the apex court order, upholding Kasab's death sentence
Mumbai" Ajmal Kasab's mercy petition, addressed to President Pranab Mukherjee, has been 'rejected' by Maharashtra's Home Ministry, days after the lone surviving perpetrator of 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks set in motion the last option available to save his life, reports PTI.
"The Home Ministry has rejected Kasab's petition and has forwarded it to the Chief Minister's Office," sources in the home department told PTI on Monday.
Under the rules, the Chief Minister's Office would now forward the mercy plea to the Union Home Ministry, which in turn would send it to the Rashtrapati Bhavan with its recommendation.
There has been a demand from several quarters for speedy implementation of the apex court order, upholding Kasab's death sentence.
Shiv Sena had recently demanded that President Pranab Mukherjee "summarily dismiss" Kasab's mercy petition.
Kasab had moved his plea earlier this month, over a fortnight after the Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
The nearly four-year legal battle launched by the 25-year-old had ended on 29th August when the Supreme Court upheld his conviction and death sentence in the 26/11 attacks case, saying he killed without "the slightest twinge of conscience."
The Congress president also had a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan whose name is doing the rounds for a Cabinet berth at the Centre, along with Narayan Rane and some others
New Delhi: Congress president Sonia Gandhi on Monday held parleys with some union ministers and senior party leaders amid indications of a Cabinet reshuffle, reports PTI.
Those who met Gandhi at her official residence at 10- Janpath included Road and Transport Minister CP Joshi, who has been given additional charge of Railways after resignation of Trinamool Congress ministers including Mukul Roy from the government.
Gandhi also had a meeting with Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan whose name is doing the rounds for a Cabinet berth at the Centre, along with Narayan Rane and some others.
AICC incharge for Maharashtra Mohan Prakash also met Gandhi.
Sources said Maharashtra will be represented in the Cabinet after two vacancies were created following shifting of Chavan as Chief Minister and the demise of Vilasrao Deshmukh.
The Congress president also held deliberations with Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad, AICC treasurer Motilal Vora and her secretary Ahmed Patel.
There was earlier a talk that Azad could be drafted for party work. However, there was no confirmation.
According to Congress sources, a reshuffle could be a substantial affair with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh giving ample hint of pursuing the reforms agenda.
With six ministers from TMC leaving, two to three Congress leaders from West Bengal are expected to be accommodated. The names of Deepa Dashmunshi and Adhir Choudhury, known detractors of TMC chief Mamata Banerjee and West Bengal PCC chief Pradeep Bhatacharjee are doing the rounds.
A reshuffle of the AICC secretariat is also on the cards and Amethi MP Rahul Gandhi is expected to get a larger responsibility in the organisation.
The exercise could see some of the ministers holding charges of two ministries losing one of the portfolios.
Beni Prasad Verma, Kapil Sibal, CP Joshi, Veerappa Moily and Vayalar Ravi are some of the ministers holding charge of two ministries.