Manmohan made accused in coal scam

Ex-bureaucrat, Kumar Mangalam Birla also named

Manmohan made accused in coal scam

Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was summoned as accused in connection with the coal block allocation scam by a special CBI court on Wednesday on the charge of facilitating “windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco.” 

While rejecting the CBI’s closure plea, the court also summoned former bureaucrat P C Parakh, Hindalco–an Aditya Birla Group company–its  chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and two of its top officials Shubhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya, as accused on April 8 in connection with the controversial allocation of Talabira-II block in Odisha.

The case, registered in September 2013, saw several twists and turns with the CBI being nudged by the court to record Singh’s statement despite the agency seeking closure of the case as there was “no evidence” of any wrongdoing.

Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar said: “Prima facie it is clear that the impugned criminal conspiracy which was initially conceived by Shubhendu Amitabh, D Bhattacharya, Kumar Mangalam Birla and Hindalco was carried out further by roping in P C Parakh, who was secretary (coal), and thereafter the then minister of coal Dr Manmohan Singh.”

The court felt that Singh’s approval for allocating the coal block to Hindalco “prima facie, resulted in loss to Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), which was a PSU, and facilitated windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco.”

NLC was also an applicant for the coal block.

“It will also be not wrong if I say that while coming to such a conclusion about prima facie involvement of the then prime minister in the present matter, this court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realisation the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole,” the judge observed.

Reacting to the order, Singh said: “Of course, I am upset but this is part of life. I have always said I am open for legal scrutiny. I am sure the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all the facts. I hope in a fair trial I will prove my innocence.”

The Congress, too, jumped to his defence.

Concerted effort
In the 75-page order, Parashar said there apparently was a “concerted effort” by all concerned to “somehow accommodate” Hindalco in Talabira-II coal block “irrespective of the rules, regulations, guidelines or procedure permitting the same much less the rule of law.”

 He further said it was “writ large on the face of record that a concerted and joint effort” was made by Hindalco representatives and public servants in the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister’s Office to “scuttle the initial allotment” made in favour of NLC.

The court noted that Kumar Mangalam “left no stone unturned” to ensure allocation by tapping political and bureaucratic channels. On Parakh, the court said he chose to “remain silent” as regard the “excess” coal allocation to Hindalco even after the new proposal to accommodate it in Talabira-II & III was approved by the then coal minister.

“This act of silence on his part prima facie appears to be a conscious decision,” the special court said.

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