Quiz Manmohan, secy in coal scam case, CBI told

Case pertains to Hindalco's block allocation

Quiz Manmohan, secy in coal scam case, CBI told

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh will face questions from the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) soon, with a special court on Tuesday directing the probe agency to examine him in a case involving the allocation of coal blocks to Kumaramangalam Birla-promoted Hindalco.

Singh was handling the Coal Ministry when the Talabira II coal block in Odisha was allocated to Hindalco.

The court felt it appropriate that the then coal minister be first examined to clear the air about the decision.

The decision came as the court sent the matter back to the CBI for further investigation. The agency had filed a closure report in the case, in which business tycoon Birla and former coal secretary P C Parakh were named as accused.

The court on Monday also asked to examine more officers who were in the Prime Minister’s Office during Singh’s tenure. It said Singh’s principal secretary T K A Nair should be examined again, though he had initially cooperated but later refused to answer certain questions.

In its order, the court said the documents recovered during the probe and the fact that Birla had met Singh, Parakh and others and also written two letters to Singh showed that a “concerted effort” was being made to “manipulate” the entire system.

However, the court said there cannot be any objection if the head of a leading industrial house met the prime minister or other top officials. “But when such meetings are seen in the overall facts and circumstances as mentioned above, coupled with the follow-up action which resulted at the administrative level in the government, it certainly raises eyebrows,” said the court.

On November 25, the court had asked the CBI why it had not questioned Singh. The investigating officer (IO) had then told court that “the coal minister was not permitted to be examined”. He added that PMO officials were examined, and the minister was not examined in the light of these officials’ statements.

The court had then asked the IO: “Don’t you think examination of the then coal minister was necessary in the matter? Didn’t you feel the need to examine him? Don’t you think his statement was necessary to present a clear picture?”

The CBI had on October 15 last year registered a case alleging that Birla and others entered into a criminal conspiracy for the allocation of Talabira II and Talabira III coal blocks.

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