Accused No. 6 Manmohan Singh: Court summons former PM over Hindalco coal block

The court has directed Singh and five other accused to appear before it on April 8.

By: Express News Service Written by Kaunain Sheriff M | New Delhi | Updated: March 12, 2015 10:01 am
manmohan singh, coal scam, coal block scam Ex-PM Manmohan Singh.

Observing there was a “conscious effort on his part to somehow accommodate” the Aditya Birla Group flagship Hindalco in the 2005 allocation of the Talabira-II coal block in Orissa, a special court Wednesday summoned former prime minister Manmohan Singh, who also held the coal portfolio then, as an accused in the case.

Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar, who found prima facie “incriminating circumstance” against Singh, also summoned five other accused: Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of the Aditya Birla Group; former coal secretary P C Parakh; Hindalco Group executive president B Shubhendu Amitabh and managing director D Bhattacharya.

There were gasps in the packed court room when Parashar first named five accused, paused, and then called out accused number 6 as the “then coal minister”. They have been directed to appear before the court on April 8.

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In September 2013, The Indian Express first reported that the CBI investigating officer in the case put on record what he called the “requirement’’ to examine Singh, then prime minister, among a lengthy list of “pending actions’’.

The court summons come at a time when coal block auctions are on and Hindalco has bagged three blocks.

Stating that he had to act with a “heavy conscience” and with “full realisation” of the effect this will have on the “morale of the country as a whole”, Parashar summoned Singh on charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by a public servant under the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Parashar said K M Birla “played an active role” by “tapping his bureaucratic and political channels” to secure the coal block allocation. “Prima facie it is clear that the impugned criminal conspiracy, which was initially conceived by Shubhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya and Kumar Mangalam Birla and Hindalco, was carried out further by roping in P C Parakh and, thereafter, the then Minister of Coal, Dr Manmohan Singh.”

In first remarks after the court order, Singh said “I am upset” and hope to “prove my innocence”. When reporters sought his comment, he said: “Of course, I am upset but this is part of life. I have always said I am open for legal scrutiny… I am sure truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all facts.” He said he respected the judicial process and “I hope in a fair trial I will prove my innocence”.

Hindalco said it would defend its case through “legal process” after studying the order. “Hindalco reiterates that none of its officials, including its chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, have pursued any unlawful or inappropriate means for securing the allocation of the coal block,” the company said in a statement.

Parashar said: “I have taken cognizance of offence under 120-B/409 IPC & 13 (1)(d)(iii) of PC Act against six accused i.e Hindalco, Shubhendu Amitabh, D Bhattacharya, Kumar Mangalam Birla, P C Parakh and Dr Manmohan Singh.”

He said Singh “allowed” the matter pertaining to allocation of Talabira-II coal block to be “reopened” even though “he himself had permitted” the approval of the minutes of the 25th screening committee which recommended the allocation of the block to Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC). He observed that “repeated reminders from PMO”, written as well as telephonic, to the coal ministry to “expeditiously” process the matter in view of letters received from K M Birla also “prima facie indicate the extra undue interest” shown by the PMO.

“His (Singh) approval of the proposal put forth by P C Parakh to Hindalco in Talabira-II and III coal block while ignoring the words of caution put forth by K V Pratap and Javed Usmani, the two officers of the PMO, regarding relaxation of the already approved guidelines, again prima facie shows that there was a conscious effort on his part to somehow accommodate Hindalco in Talabira-II coal block,” Parashar said.

While noting that the prime minister “cannot personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him”, Parashar said that in this case, Singh “chose” to keep the coal portfolio with him and, therefore, “he cannot claim” that as prime minister he could not be “expected” to personally look into minute details of each and every case.

He also referred to the statement of B V R Subramanyam, then PS to Prime Minister, who said Singh was a “thorough and diligent person” and “as departmental minister would go through what the Secretary, the Minister of State and the officers below in the PMO has written in the file”.

Parashar said the “omission” not to refer the request of Hindalco to the screening committee, in accordance with established procedure being followed at that time, “prima facie shows that it was a conscious decision to accommodate Hindalco” in a joint coal block comprising Talabira-II and Talabira-III coal blocks “while at the same time negating the right of NLC”. “His action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC which was a PSU and facilitated windfall profits to a private company i.e. M/s Hindalco.”

On Parakh’s role, Parashar said he “chose to remain silent” on the excess coal allocation to Hindalco even after the new proposal to accommodate Hindalco in Talabira-II & III coal blocks was approved by the coal minister. “This act of silence on his part prima facie appears to be a conscious decision. He even made a wrong noting in the file by stating that both NLC and MCL (Mahanadi Coalfields Ltd) intends to establish the power plant jointly by forming a joint venture company,” he said.

Parakh, the judge said, “chose to overturn the recommendation of the screening committee on his own without any legally sustainable reason or logic”.

Parashar also observed that the “claim of PMO” that the Hindalco case was revisited in view of the strong recommendation by the Orissa chief minister. It is “clearly an eyewash and a lame excuse”.

Slapping the criminal conspiracy charge against the six accused, the judge said it was a “well-planned exercise” which was “meticulously carried out… only to do an illegal act”.

“It is prima facie clear that a well planned conspiracy was hatched to accommodate Hindalco in Talabira-II coal block so as to extend wrongful gain to Hindalco while at the same time causing wrongful loss not only to the Government of India… custodian of the nationalized natural resources… but also to NLC,” he said.

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First Published on: March 12, 2015 12:00 am
  1. J
    Jlbajaj
    Mar 11, 2015 at 11:05 am
    Sorry to see an honest man having to go through this. Whatever his shortcomings his contributions should not be belittled.
    Reply
    1. A
      A.Bhatia
      Mar 13, 2015 at 6:04 am
      Its not not unfortunate for MMS, but for UPA and w of India as well. Though we may have sympathy with MMS, but have to believe in our Judicial system also. The Judge serving the Summon on MMS, is indeed a brave and highly law abiding person. It is also a great example of Democracy, and proving that, in India, no one is above the law, irrespective of the post held. We wish MMS proves innocent, but we all would like to know the truth also, in such high level and huge valued scam. Congress is worried and its unity at this occasion, is understandable, and it appears that, more than MMS, the leaders are worried about their own fate in this case. The outcome of this case is likely to raise many new questions. We wish that, the fairest trial shall take place and all Indians, shall know the facts.
      Reply
      1. A
        AK
        Mar 11, 2015 at 10:19 am
        excellent decision.. No one is above the Law
        Reply
        1. A
          agajan
          Mar 11, 2015 at 1:22 pm
          nothing will happen to you respected sir manmohan you were the best prime minister till date india had ever had lord vishnu lord shiva lord ram lord ganesha lord venkatesh all will come to you help and make you winner lord rama and are all with you long live sir MANMOHAN INDIA PEOPLE LOVES YOU YOU ARE THE PRIDE OF INDIA WE PEOPLE OF INDIA SALUTE YOU
          Reply
          1. অরুণ %e0%a6%ac%e0%a6%be%e0%a6%99%e0%a6%be%
            Mar 11, 2015 at 4:26 pm
            In this country, it has become a "de facto" norm for politicians accused of swindling money, to go unpunished or face farcical punishment in jails for a few weeks. Manmohan Singh was undoubtedly responsible for the coal scam, yet I am 100% sure he will face no punishment just like several others. This country fails to punish. God knows when politicians will feel the heat for their crimes.
            Reply
            1. A
              Arun Maheshwari
              Mar 12, 2015 at 7:18 am
              What is this myth about MMS being honest? How do we know? The guy is involved as an active player in all the corruption of the Congress and people are vouching for his honesty. I hope the judge sends the guy to jail for at least 10 years so the future spineless bureaucrats (which is what Manmohan Singh essentially is) will think twice before rubber-stamping when the crooked politicians ask them to approve illegal actions, costing billions and billions of dollars to the country.
              Reply
              1. A
                Arun Maheshwari
                Mar 12, 2015 at 7:09 am
                After 60 years of Congress rule, it is heartening that there are still a few honest officers and judges left in the country. Thank God. There is hope for India.
                Reply
                1. A
                  ashok
                  Mar 12, 2015 at 6:46 am
                  Hindalco should be barred from coal allocation.What's the use og suumons when further allocations are made
                  Reply
                  1. A
                    avi
                    Mar 11, 2015 at 10:55 am
                    MMS is paying a very high price for being a pawn in the hands of Nehru hi dynasty.Wish an educated and decent man like him should have sta away from the dirty world of politics which was run by the corrupt Dynasty and not him ! Blind allegiance is a blind spot !!!
                    Reply
                    1. B
                      Bala PH
                      Mar 12, 2015 at 10:59 am
                      He shd have been Accused No.1,. After the spate of results of auction over the last few months, Manmohan should have morally apologised for cheating the country during his tenure. The UPA was only filling up the coffers of its ministers and favourites, rather than the Nation's.
                      Reply
                      1. C
                        cyril hojn
                        Mar 11, 2015 at 2:23 pm
                        He had served as Prime Minister of India for ten years, it was during his time as Minster of coal these allocations happened. The high values obtained by the present govt. for the same coal mines, shows that M.M singh and his party have a lot to answer. The next turn would be Mom and Son for National Herald case
                        Reply
                        1. D
                          Damaru Prasad
                          Mar 11, 2015 at 1:15 pm
                          I think Dr Singh can get out of it by plainly saying that he worked as told by Sonia hi.
                          Reply
                          1. D
                            david
                            Mar 12, 2015 at 1:41 am
                            The question is who made MMS to keep the coal ministry with him instead of finance as PM and made happen this biggest ever scandle/loot in the history of India. Now either he name that traitor or face the music of law. Enough is enough.
                            Reply
                            1. R
                              Rangaesh Gadasalli
                              Mar 11, 2015 at 11:56 pm
                              Dr Singh must have resigned after five years, but stuck to his chair for five more years. How can a CEO get away when all the people under him are involved with serious criminal activities hurting the nation? He might say, my life is an open book, i am innocent and not corruot. But what about trust of the nation in you Sir? did you ket the nation down? you will have to answer lot of questions and you will have to give the names of criminals who took shelter under your good name and personality. Truth has to come out. YOU MUST SPEAK THE TRUTH.
                              Reply
                              1. R
                                RS
                                Mar 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm
                                Wait till the next elections and watch the BJP crooks in the net being hauled through the same halls of Justice headed by different judges albiet!
                                Reply
                                1. J
                                  JKG
                                  Mar 11, 2015 at 12:00 pm
                                  former PM will face music
                                  Reply
                                  1. K
                                    kalyan
                                    Mar 11, 2015 at 11:36 am
                                    well said
                                    Reply
                                    1. K
                                      Kuriakose Pariarath
                                      Mar 12, 2015 at 2:26 am
                                      Coal Block action was not invented by MMS. It started before and BJP Govt did it too. Had their been a proper and transparent system from the beginning this would not have happened. 2G Scam was during MMS time but it happened because of lack of technological know by the Govt officials and ministers;how this new IT science would affect, and its impact and potentials. Those few crooks who knew took advantage and looted the nation. But even during the BJP GOvt auctions happened. A lot of money flew into private hands that would have gone to the exchequer but the other side is that there happened an explosion of development in the communication world of India . It may be obvious that Manmohan singh overlooked something , even closed his eyes but to treat him as a criminal will be a sin India will be doing to a noble soul. It is also true that he was cornered by everyone with evil intention ; The congress leadership. the leftist, the 'middleist' and the BJP included. He was like a virgin among prosutes; The political environment of India is not clean enough for species like MMS to survive .Responsible political parties should learn to act in a responsible manner for the sake of the nation and democracy. How they failed to do so is in India so evident For example, when 2G was exposed, MMS should have been ured of support to throw out the Raja Rani DMK. AIADMK chief is now convicted for corruption but yet the BJP is in shadow love with Amma. Corruption is a mental condition and measuring by that scale, MMS is one of the least corrupted leaders of India. But he would have been not efficient and effective in blocking corruption. He has already been punished through the past Lok Sabha election.
                                      Reply
                                      1. A
                                        ashok
                                        Mar 11, 2015 at 10:05 am
                                        How could it possibly be otherwise ? Idle to believe the upright judge who presides over this case does not read the newspapers or watch TV, is unaware of the fact that even when energy prices have halved, companies have bid 2000000000000 - count the zeroes - for some of the coal blocks that this internationally renowned economist gifted away. Who collected the bribes is a matter of detail. As the trial proceeds, that too will become clear.
                                        Reply
                                        1. M
                                          mozhi
                                          Mar 12, 2015 at 9:34 am
                                          do sonia-hians have special previlege to be corrupt? is it right holding the nation in hostage if questioned
                                          Reply
                                          1. S
                                            Sunitha
                                            Mar 12, 2015 at 11:42 am
                                            Just want to know what does Mr Sibal have to say now about the coal block allocations by the UPA in view of the court's above observations? Does he still contend that the ministry acted correctly in doing what it did, as he maintained in an op-ed column in IE earlier this week? I would not like to see MMS come to a major blow to his retion at this stage in life. But one has to rout for truth to prevail. Unpleasant, but it is a necessary c. Left untended, pond India would end up stinking to high heaven, and the price that we finally end up paying could become much heavier. A real bad, sad situation, anyway you look at it. Arun K. Chhabra, Esquire, Washington, DC, USA
                                            Reply
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