Hindalco has done no wrong; nothing to worry about, Birla says

Last Updated 18 October 2013, 16:26 IST

Even as he drew all round support from industry and some ministers,  Kumar Mangalam Birla today broke his silence rubbishing  CBI charges against him in a coal block allocation case saying he was not worried as no wrong has been committed.

Birla, Chairman of the Aditya Birla group flagship firm Hindalco, met Finance Minister P Chidambaram and Revenue Secretary Sumit Bose and later told reporters that he had discussed the FIR issue with the minister.

"As of now I am not worried about it. There is nothing wrong (that) has been done. So why should one worry?"

He was asked whether the CBI FIR naming him and Hindalco in the coalgate scam would cast a shadow on the Aditya Birla Group's application for a bank licence.

Meanwhile, industry body CII today joined others in slamming the FIR against Birla but issued a nuanced statement saying while CBI had the right to proceed against anyone it should be careful before taking action against reputed industrialists to avoid creating a sense of fear.

Without referring to the Birla case,  CII chief Kris Gopalakrishnan  said, "It is desirable to ensure that all facts of the case are laid upfront before proceeding against respected and reputed individuals."

He  said  that reputations of institutions and individuals take years to build and therefore, extreme caution needs to be exercised before any action is taken, which jeopardises reputation that institutions and individuals build for themselves.

At the same time, he cautioned, "Every effort should be made to ensure that there is no atmosphere of fear created, when it comes to decision making. Swift decisions and transparent policy environment are prerequisites of an enabling business climate. This is best done if the Government and Industry work together."

Infosys Executive Chairman N R Narayana Murthy said any acquisition against Birla without a detailed set of facts was unlikely to go well with both Indian and international investors.

"Kumar is one of the most respected business people, therefore any accusation against Kumar without a detailed set of facts is not likely to go well in the eyes of the investors... It is very very important for the authorities to be 100 per cent certain about the facts and data.

Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily cautioned against India becoming like Russia, where investors dread to go and billionaires are jailed.

"I am not here to give a value judgement on that but at the same time I think the time has come to ensure that whatever we do it should be in accordance with strict rule of law. And ultimately on mere perception you cannot proceed against anybody unless there is a cogent evidence to proceed with," he told reporters here.

Moily said the CBI has proceeded in the matter on certain lines, which if it is based on evidence, "nobody can question them".

"If not, then we should be careful. Because ultimately India cannot become just like Russia where investors are not prepared to go and billionaires are put behind the bars. That should not happen here," he said.

The job of ensuring India does not become Russia rests not just with the government but also with judiciary and the CBI, said Moily.

"After all we are not in the regime of Aurangazeb. We are in the regime of rule of law. When rule of law is concerned it applies to government, it applies to Supreme Court, it allies to everybody.

"If all of us work in accordance with rule of law, if rule of law is implemented, we are all save, investors are safe, people will be safe," he said.

The CBI action against Birla has already evoked criticism from Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma and Corporate Affairs Minister Sachin Pilot.

CBI sources said Birla had written a letter to the Prime Minister's Office which had forwarded the letter to the Coal Ministry.

The investigating agency yesterday claimed to have made a fresh recovery of documents from Aditya Birla group which included retail invoice of gold coins totalling to Rs 94 lakh, investments in various schemes to the tune of Rs 17 lakh besides Rs 24 lakh 'petty cash'.
The CBI on Tuesday filed a case against Birla and former Coal Secretary Parkakh, on charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption in connection with alleged irregularities in allocation of Talabira coal blocks in Odisha in 2005.

The CBI action met with criticism from India Inc which said that businessmen cannot be made scapegoats on the basis of mere suspicion as such incidents would further widen the government-industry trust deficit.

(Published 18 October 2013, 13:53 IST)

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