Coalgate: CBI examines Manmohan

The Central Bureau of Investigation has recorded the statement of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of an Odisha coal block to industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla’s company Hindalco.

Although CBI officials confirmed that Mr. Singh’s statement had been recorded, they remained tight-lipped over when exactly the agency approached him.The former Prime Minister’s statement has been recorded following a direction by the Special CBI Court last month. Observing that a concerted effort was being made to manipulate the entire government machinery so as to protect the interest of Hindalco, the Court had directed the agency to examine the then Coal Minister (Mr. Singh) on various aspects of the coal block allocation to the company.

The CBI had sought closure of the case, in which Mr. Birla, former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh and others were named as accused. However, the court directed the agency to carry out further investigations in the case and submit a progress report on January 27, stating that before examining the matter further, it was appropriate that the then Coal Minister was first examined.

The CBI had in October 2013 registered the case alleging that Mr. Birla and Mr. Parakh, along with other accused persons, entered into a criminal conspiracy to facilitate partial allocation of the Talabira coal block to Hindalco in 2005.The move prompted the PMO to issue a detailed statement in Dr. Singh’s defence. The PMO said Dr. Singh was “satisfied” that the final decision was “entirely appropriate” and based “on the merits of the case placed before him”, and that he had formally endorsed the Coal Ministry’s decision to overturn the 25th screening committee’s recommendation to accommodate Kumar Mangalam Birla’s company for the allocation of the coal block in question.

The Hindu had last July reported that the >CBI was then planning to seek clarifications from the former Prime Minister as a witness in the coal block allocations scam. Dr. Singh held the charge of the Coal Ministry for almost five years from the time the United Progressive Alliance came to power in 2004. Several coal block allocations made during the period are under CBI scrutiny.

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Printable version | Jun 12, 2021 12:00:48 PM |

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