Allocation of Talabira II coal block in Odisha: Manmohan summoned as accused

Odisha Sun Times Bureau/IANS
New Delhi, Mar 11:

A special court in New Delhi today summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, former Union Coal secretary PC Parakh and Aditya Birla Group head Kumarmangalam Birla as accused in the case involving allocation of the Talabira II coal block in Sundargarh district of Odisha to Hindalco in 2005.

Manmohan Singh
Manmohan Singh

Special Judge Bharat Parashar also summoned industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, and three others to appear in the court on April 8.

After taking cognizance of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) final report in the case, also summoned Hindalco officials Shubendu Amitabh and D. Bhattacharya on the same day.

They have been summoned for offences of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA).

Manmohan has responded rather philosophically to the development saying it is ‘part of life’.

“I am upset. But I have the highest regard for the judiciary. I am ready to face any probe and confident that truth will prevail,” the former Prime Minister said.

In his first reaction after the court decision, Parakh said the decision came a ‘surprise’ for him. “It came as a surprise for me. But then the court has its own way of doing things. I have fully cooperated with the CBI probe. I don’t think there was any illegality in the allocation,” the former Coal secretary said.

Quick to pounce on this opportunity to have a go at the Congress, Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said that former prime minister Manmohan Singh was paying for the “sins” of the Congress party.

“It is a Congress’ scam and because of the Congress’ sin, Manmohan ji, the economist (former) prime minister, has to face this,” Javadekar told reporters.

“Congress is responsible for bringing former PM to this threshold,” he added.

Calling it “yet another blot on the Congress”, Javadekar said all political parties siding with the Congress will now be forced to reconsider their stand.

The final compliance report in the matter was filed on the court’s order on February 19.

The court on December 16 last year, while refusing to accept the CBI’s closure report, had directed the agency to record the former prime minister’s statement.

Manmohan Singh was questioned in January in connection with allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha to Hindalco in 2005 when he also held the coal portfolio.

Earlier, the agency had filed the statements of various people recorded during its probe. The CBI had in October 2013 booked Birla, Parakh and others on charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption in the case.

It later it filed a closure report, saying the evidence collected during investigations did not substantiate the allegations levelled against the people named in the FIR.

The court, however, had rejected the closure report and observed that a concerted effort was being made to manipulate the entire government machinery so as to protect the interest of Hindalco.

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