New Delhi: After six years of probe, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has filed a closure report in a corruption case against former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan over the diversion of forest land for a steel plant in Jharkhand in violation of laws in 2012, sources said.
The CBI sources said that the agency filed the closure report before a special court last week, adding that it could not find enough evidence in the case to proceed with prosecution.
The CBI had registered the case against Natarajan, the then managing director of Electrosteel Casting Limited (ECL), Umang Kejriwal and the company on September 7, 2017, after a three-year-long exhaustive preliminary enquiry it had registered in 2014 on the Supreme Court’s directions.
The probe agency registered the FIR based on enquiry findings, which allegedly showed that ECL had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Jharkhand government for setting up a steel plant in Jharkhand in 2004.
The CBI has alleged that Natarajan gave the clearance to the company in 2012 for mining in violation of the existing mining and environment laws as also the directions of the Supreme Court.
“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 (Electrosteel Casting Limited), though the same had been rejected by the earlier MoS… Without any change in the circumstances after rejection,” the CBI had stated in its FIR.
The forest advisory committee, the CBI said, considered the proposal twice before rejecting it on the ground that the proposed mining area was part of core zone of Singhbhum Elephant Reserve and critical to wildlife conservation.
The case pertains to clearance given for diversion of forest land in Saranda forest in Singhbhum district in Jharkhand to mining company Electrosteel in alleged violation of the Forest (Conservation Act) in 2012.
The approval was accorded without adhering to the advice of DG (forests) and directions of the Supreme Court in this regard.
The sources said that the special court will now decide whether to accept the closure report, resulting in a clean chit to the former Union Minister, or reject it, asking for further probe by the agency.
The BJP had made ‘Jayanthi tax’ a poll issue in 2014 Lok Sabha polls targeting the then UPA II government of corruption and scandals.