Several United Progressive Alliance ministers on Wednesday tacitly criticised the CBI for booking prominent industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in the coal scam case.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari, however, refrained from commenting on the issue, saying that the matter was sub judice.
“Our attention has been drawn to some reports which appeared in sections of the press today (Wednesday). Most respectfully, I would like to submit that the entire matter is under investigation and the investigation is being monitored by the Supreme Court directly,” Tewari told reporters.
On the contrary, Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma described the case against Birla as unfortunate. Speaking to a TV channel, Sharma, without naming the CBI, said the agency should not “play to the gallery and create an environment of sensation and shock.”
“First, institutions or various authorities who have some constitutional duties to discharge, should not go for overreach or play to the gallery and create an environment of sensation and shock,” Sharma said.
The minister also acknowledged the contribution of corporate houses, including the Birlas, in charting the country’s success story. They are held in high esteem globally, he said.
“So, the larger question which comes up is that whether we have an environment which is conducive to decision-making and also which gives confidence to investors and the corporate world,” Sharma said.
Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot also joined the chorus. Punitive actions, Pilot said, should be based on “hard facts.” Otherwise, they end up demoralising investors and impact business environment.
“While no one is above the law and wrongdoers have to be brought to justice, we must ensure that such actions are based on hard facts and do not create an atmosphere of fear and uncertainty,” Pilot said.
Interestingly, the ministers did not react to former coal secretary P C Parekh’s observation that even Prime Minister “was a conspirator” since he had cleared a file for allotment of coal blocks to Hindalco. Parekh is a co-accused in the case along with Birla.
The Congress and UPA ministers had earlier criticised the CAG for dealing a blow to the investors’ confidence by exposing several big-ticket scams. The Supreme Court, while hearing a mining petition, had recently observed that it was the court’s duty to uphold the Constitution and not ensure business opportunities.
The CBI’s move has drawn sharp reactions from the industry. Former Infosys board member Mohandas Pai said: “It seems investigating agencies have run amok. Unless one has strong evidence, targeting business leaders will have a bad impact on the economy.”
PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Suman Jyoti Khaitan said: “The industry stands by him. This is not a very good thing for the confidence of the industry.”