CBI raids Natara­jan over for­est land clear­ance case

Sunday Express - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO days af­ter reg­is­ter­ing an FIR against for­mer En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Jayan­thi Natara­jan, the CBI on Satur­day car­ried out searches at her res­i­dence in Chen­nai. The charges against Natara­jan are crim­i­nal con­spir­acy and graft in con­nec­tion with ir­reg­u­lar ap­proval for di­ver­sion of for­est land in Jhark­hand for min­ing by a pri­vate firm.

Be­sides the searches in Chen­nai, the CBI raided premises of the other ac­cused in New Delhi and Kolkata, and the min­ing com­pany’s of­fice in Sun­der­garh, Odisha, said sources. The agency will soon sum­mon Natara­jan for ques­tion­ing.

A pre­lim­i­nary en­quiry had shown that Natara­jan had cleared 55.79 acres of land in the Singhb­hum Ele­phant Re­serve for non-for­est use (min­ing) by Elec­tros­teel Cast­ing Ltd, dis­re­gard­ing pre­de­ces­sor Jairam Ramesh’s not­ings, For­est Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee’s rec­om­men­da­tions and Supreme Court guide­lines, be­sides vi­o­lat­ing For­est Con­ser­va­tion Act.

The agency has booked Natara­jan, Umang Ke­jri­wal, the then manag­ing di­rec­tor of Elec­tros­teel Cast­ing Lim­ited (ECL), and the com­pany, be­sides oth­ers. The ac­cused have been booked un­der Sec­tion 120-B (crim­i­nal con­spir­acy) of the In­dian Pe­nal Code and pro­vi­sions of the Preven­tion of Cor­rup­tion Act re­lat­ing to abuse of of­fi­cial po­si­tion.

Natara­jan’s pre­de­ces­sor in En­vi­ron­ment Min­istry Jairam Ramesh had re­jected the ECL pro­posal for di­ver­sion of for­est land in line with the rec­om­men­da­tion of the For­est Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee. But Natara­jan cleared pro­posal dis­re­gard­ing the FAC rec­om­men­da­tion.

“Jayan­thi Natara­jan, the then Min­is­ter of State for En­vi­ron­ment and Forests ac­corded the ap­proval for di­ver­sion of 55.79 hectares of for­est land for non-forestry use to ECL, though the same had been re­jected by the ear­lier Min­is­ter of State (I/C) E&F, MoEF, with­out any change in the cir­cum­stances af­ter re­jec­tion,” reads the CBI FIR. The FIR fur­ther said, “The …facts re­veal crim­i­nal con­spir­acy be­tween Smt. Jayan­thi Na­tra­jan, the then Min­is­ter of State (I/C) E&F, MoEf, Gov­ern­ment of In­dia, Sh. Umang Keri­wal, Manag­ing Di­rec­tor of M/S ECL & oth­ers and abuse of of­fi­cial po­si­tion by Smt. Jayan­thi Nat ra j a n … i n pu r s u a n c e o f cr i mi na l con­spir­acy.”

Ac­cord­ing to find­ings of the Pre­lim­i­nary En­quiry, now part of the FIR, the then Chief Min­is­ter of Jhark­hand (from Jan­uary 2006 to May 2009) re­ferred the ECL re­quest for the clear­ance a num­ber of times. The then Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary to the Prime Min­is­ter ((10.08.2010) re­ferred a rep­re­sen­ta­tion (dated July 13, 2010) by ECL ad­dressed to the then PM for con­sid­er­a­tion of its pro­posal of di­ver­sion of for­est land to the then Sec­re­tary of Min­istry of En­vi­ron­ment and For­est for ap­pro­pri­ate ac­tion despite re­jec­tion of the pro­posal by the For­est Ad­vi­sory Com­mit­tee.

When Natara­jan took over as Min­is­ter of State (In­de­pen­dent Charge) for En­vi­ron­ment on July 13, 2011, the then Jhark­hand CM re­quested her to con­sider the pro­posal prag­mat­i­cally CBI re­port

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