The CBI was on Tuesday asked by a Special Court as to whether it has examined former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was then holding coal portfolio, during its probe in the coal blocks allocation scam case involving top industrialist KM Birla, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh and others.
Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar asked the agency,”Don’t you think examination of the then coal minister was necessary in the matter? Don’t you feel the need to examine him? Don’t you think his statement was necessary to present a clear picture?”
Responding to this, the investigating officer (IO) told the court that the officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) were examined during the probe and it was found that statement of the then coal minister was not necessary.
He, however,clarified that the then coal minister was not permitted to be examined.
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding the portfolio of coal ministry when Birla’s firm Hindalco was allocated coal blocks in Odisha’s Talabira II & III in 2005.
“PMO officials were examined. The then minister of coal was not examined in light of the statement of PMO officials,” the IO said, adding “the then coal minister was not permitted to be examined. It was found that his statement was not necessary”.
During the hearing, the court directed CBI to file the case diary before it after which the Senior Public Prosecutor V K Sharma said that the agency be allowed to file these documents in a sealed cover.
”…I deem it appropriate that let the case diary files and crime files of the present case be summoned and as per the request of Senior PP, let it be produced in the sealed cover,” the judge said and posted the matter for further proceedings on November 27.
Earlier on November 10, CBI had told the court that there was “prima facie enough material” to proceed against some private parties and public servants in the case.
The Supreme Court—appointed special public prosecutor (SPP) R.S. Cheema for CBI had submitted before the judge that the court can take cognisance of the offences mentioned in the closure report as there was prima facie “evidence against the accused to show their involvement“.
The CBI’s stand seeking prosecution of the accused had come after the court, on September 12, questioned the agency for showing hurry in closing the case in which FIR was lodged against Birla, Parakh and others.
On October 21, the agency had filed a revised final closure report in the case.
The FIR against Birla, Parakh and others was registered in October last year by CBI which had alleged that Parakh had reversed his decision to reject coal block allocation to Hindalco within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances” and shown “undue favours“.
The FIR relates to allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha in 2005.
CBI had booked Birla, Parakh and other Hindalco officials under various IPC sections, including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on the part of government officials.
In its FIR, the agency had alleged that during the 25th Screening Committee meeting, chaired by Parakh, applications of Hindalco and Indal Industries were rejected for mining in Talabira II and III “citing valid reasons”.