In a sensational twist to the Hindalco coal block allocation case, a special court here on Wednesday summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused while summarily rejecting the CBI closure report. The court observed that there were enough “incriminating circumstances” to prosecute Dr. Singh for criminal conspiracy.
“This Court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realization what the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole,” said Special Judge Bharat Parashar, taking cognisance of several criminal offences under the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).
Accordingly, Dr. Singh will be heard by the court on April 8, when he will have to answer queries on the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servants under the IPC and criminal misconduct by a public servant under the PCA, the punishment for which could result in a life term if enforced concurrently.
“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,” said Dr. Singh, reacting to the development.
Dr. Singh can approach the High Court for a stay on the summons order.
Dr. Singh and the Coal trail
- ›March 2012 CAG’s draft report accuses govt of ‘inefficient’ allocation of coal blocks in 2004-2009; estimates windfall gains to allottees at Rs 10.7 lakh crore.
- ›May 29, 2012 Prime Minister Manmohan Singh offers to give up his public life if found guilty in the scam. Two days later, CVC directs a CBI enquiry
- ›November 25, 2014 CBI informs a special court that it was not permitted to question former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The investigating agency also said it wasn't necessary.
- ›December 17, 2014 Special court ordered the CBI to examine former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- ›January 20, 2015 CBI records the statement of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
- ›March 11, 2015 Special court summons former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Kumar Mangalam Birla and P.C. Parakh as accused.
- >Detailed timeline of the coal scam
Hindalco, on the other hand, sent out a statement saying that the plant for which the allocation was made was suffering “irrecoverable financial stress.” and that the company would soon be absolved of all guilt.
“Hindalco reiterates that none of its officials, including its Chairman Mr. Kumar Mangalam Birla, have pursued any unlawful or inappropriate means for securing the allocation of the coal block,” said the statement.
Former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh as well as Hindalco’s two top officials, Shubhendu Amitabh and D. Bhattacharya have also been made accused in the case.
The CBI had registered the initial case in October 2013 against Kumar Mangalam Birla, Mr. Parakh and others. Last August it had requested closure stating that there was insufficient prosecutable evidence.
However, the court turned down the plea directing the agency to file a comprehensive report. Two months later, the CBI filed a revised closure report that was again rejected last December. Instead, the court directed the agency to record statements of Dr. Singh and other PMO officials.
The agency filed the final report on February 19, this time stating that there was prima facie evidence against Mr. Birla and Mr. Parakh, but did not mention Dr. Singh. However, the court on Wednesday summoned him as an accused.
In a 75-page order, the court examined the actions of Dr. Singh after industrialist K.M. Birla had written two letters to him for allocation of Talabira-II coal block to Hindalco.
Extra undue interest shown by PMO: court
In its 75-page order, a special court here on Wednesday examined the actions of the then Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, after industrialist K.M. Birla had written two letters to him for allocation of the Talabira-II coal block to Hindalco. “The repeated reminders from PMO, written as well as telephonic, to MOC to expeditiously process the matter in view of the letters received from Kumar Mangalam Birla also prima facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by the PMO in the matter.”
The court said: “It is also prima facie clear that though Secretary, Coal, and Minister of Coal were playing different roles, there was a concerted joint effort to somehow accommodate M/s HINDALCO in Talabira-II, coal block. It was the central common objective of the impugned criminal conspiracy known to all concerned.”
The court noted that Dr. Singh’s actions resulted in a loss to Neyveli Lignite Corporation.