Coal scam: Court pulls up CBI for not seizing Naveen Jindal's passport

New Delhi: A special court today rapped the CBI for not seizing the passport of Congress leader and industrialist Naveen Jindal, chargesheeted in a coalscam case, observing that exercise of discretion cannot be on "arbitrary grounds" and the agency should not adopt different yardsticks.

The court observed this after the CBI informed it that a decision was taken by them that passports of Jindal and some other accused chargesheeted in the case be not seized and only an intimation about it be sent to concerned passport officer that probe against Jindal was pending.

"..it is clear that ordinarily the passport of all accused persons in all cases are seized by CBI during investigation whenever a case stands registered against them and thereafter the passports are sent to the respective passport officers for action under Passports Act," Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.

"However in the present case for reasons best known to CBI a different policy was adopted," the court said while noting that although the discretion regarding this is vested with the investigating agency, "it is clear that exercise of such a discretion cannot be on arbitrary grounds."

It also observed that it was for the investigating agency to decide whether to seize passport of an accused pending investigation of a case or not. The court asked the CBI Director to ensure that a uniform policy is laid down to be followed on this issue.

"In these circumstances, I deem it appropriate to direct CBI Director to ensure that a uniform policy be laid down to be followed in all such cases in future so that the precious time of the court is not wasted in dealing with such issues which primarily and prima facie arise out of arbitrary exercise of discretion by certain authorities," the judge said.

"A copy of such a policy so framed be also sent to this court within next 30 days so that this court may refer to the same in case similar issues arise in other cases," it said. The court fixed May 6 for considering CBI's charge sheet filed against Jindal and 14 others, including five firms, in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand.

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