The CBI carried out searches at the residence of former Union Environment Minister Jayanthi Natarajan in Chennai on Saturday.
The raids, which reportedly began at her Alwarpet residence in Chennai at 5.30am, was based on an FIR that was registered against Jayanthi Natarajan on Thursday for criminal conspiracy and abuse of official position.
The 10-page FIR also names Umang Kejriwal, the then Managing Director of Electrosteel Casting Limited, Electorsteel Casting Limited and other unknown persons.
According to the FIR, Jayanthi Natarajan as Minister of State for Environment and Forests in 2012 had granted environmental clearances to Electrosteel Casting Limited for mining projects in Jharkhand in violation of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
â€śThus Smt Jayanthi Natarajan, the then Minister of State (I/C) E&F, MoEF, accorded the approval for diversion of 55.79 hectares of forest land for non-forestry use to M/s 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. Besides, this approval was accorded without adhering to the advice of DGF&SS and against the directions of Honâ€™ble Supreme Court in this regard,â€ť reads the FIR.
The case was registered based on the findings of preliminary enquiry which looked into allegations that during 2005 unknown officials of the Jharkhand government had recommended a proposal of Electrosteel Casting Limited to the Environment Ministry for leasing 192.50 hectares of land for the mining of iron and manganese ores at Saranda Forests in Singhbhum district of Jharkhand.
The FIR states that an MoU was signed with Electrosteel Casting Limited by the Jharkhand government in 2004 for setting up a one million ton per annum steel plant. This was thereafter modified in 2007, increasing the production capacity to 3 million ton per annum.
Over the years, the proposal saw multiple rejects both by Forest Advisory Committee and the former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh as the proposed mining area was part of the core zone of an elephant reserve.
Jayanthi Natarajan was the Environment Minister for the UPA between July 2011 and December 2013. The veteran leader quit the Congress part in January 2015, and went on to publicly hit out at Congress Vice President Rahul Gandhi, who she accused of â€śinterfering with decision makingâ€ť during her tenure as Environment Minister.