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Supreme Court to hear Centre on reopening Hindustan Zinc divestment after Holi

In 2002, the Central government had decided to divest its controlling shares in Hindustan Zinc Ltd.

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The Supreme Court has said it will hear the Centre’s decision to sell a portion of its equity in Hindustan Zinc Ltd after Holi.  

On Monday, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta approached the bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Subramaniam, saying, “I would like urgent listing of a matter regarding sale of a portion of government equity in Hindustan Zinc. The economy needs infusion of money.”

Earlier on March 4, the Supreme Court had sought the CBI’s response on providing a copy of its probe report closing the preliminary inquiry into the disinvestment of the government’s share in Hindustan Zinc Ltd in 2002. To this, the Apex Court took note of the plea filed by Prashant Bhushan that pointed to corrupt practices in divesting government shares in Hindustan Zinc Ltd during the NDA regime.

On being told by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta that preliminary inquiry into the case has been closed, the Bench asked him to apprise the court whether it can provide a copy of its closure report to the complainant which has alleged corrupt practices in the deal.

Last year in July, the Supreme Court had decided to examine why the CBI decided to close its investigation into alleged corruption in the matter. The apex court had also declined to let the Central government disinvest the remaining shares in the PSU by lifting its restraint order of January 2016.

Solicitor General Tushar Mehta informed the bench that a preliminary inquiry was registered by the CBI in November 2013 to look into alleged corrupt practices.

Advocate Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner, had pointed out that the final decision to close the case has been taken even though several officers of the CBI recommended registration of a regular case for a further inquiry. The bench then decided to call for the inquiry report so as to determine the reasons why the investigation was decided to be closed. Advocate Bhushan also resisted further disinvestment, claiming there is a report by the Union Law Ministry opposing it.

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In 2002, the Central government had decided to divest its controlling shares in Hindustan Zinc Ltd. The PIL was filed in 2014 by an association of officers related to the PSU firm. Alleging illegalities in the disinvestment to bestow benefits to a few by undervaluing the shares, the plea asked for a CBI probe into the deal and restraining the government from further divesting its share.

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