Odisha coal block allocation: Court asks CBI to record Manmohan Singh’s statement

IANS/Odisha Sun Times Bureau
New Delhi, Dec 16:

A special court hearing the case related to allocation of the Talabira coal block in Odisha to Hindalco, an Aditya Birla Group company,  on Tuesday asked CBI to record the statement of former Prime minister Manmohan Singh who was then holding coal ministry portfolio.

Manmohan Singh

Special Judge Bharat Parashar asked Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to record the statement of Manmohan Singh in the case.

The court also ordered CBI to conduct further investigation in the case and posted the matter for Jan 27.

“I have ordered further investigation. I desire that statement of then coal minister (Manmohan Singh) be recorded beside other officials,” the judge said.

The CBI had booked Birla, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, and others on charges of criminal conspiracy and corruption in the  allocation of the Talabira coal block in October 2013.

The Talabira coal block, which was originally allocated to the public sector Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC), was allocated to Hindalco later based on a letter written by Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik. In a reply to the question in the Parliament, Mmanmohan Singh had maintained that the Central government was duty bound to take into consideration the  concerned state government in this regard.

But the central investigating agency filed a closure report in the case Aug 28, saying: “The evidence collected during investigations did not substantiate the allegations levelled against the people named in the FIR (first information report),” it said.

The court, earlier, sought to know on what basis did the CBI draw its conclusion to close the case and what kind of investigation it has conducted.

The court also sought clarifications from the CBI whether an element of criminality was involved in allocating the coal blocks to the Birla-promoted Hindalco firm.

Special Public Prosecutor R.S. Cheema, in the last month’s hearing, had told the court that it could take cognizance of the CBI’s closure report filed Oct 21 as there was no prima facie “evidence against the accused to show their involvement”.

The court Nov 25 has asked the investigating officer if officials at the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) and the then coal minister were examined. The officer said some PMO officials were examined but the then coal minister was not. (IANS)

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