Strongly rebutting the charge of criminal conspiracy, former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also held the coal portfolio, moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday seeking quashing of the summons issued to him as an accused in a coal block allocation case.
Singh also sought an immediate stay on the trial judge’s order to summon him on April 8 and further proceedings, contending that the impugned order was per se legally untenable and erroneous, and could not stand the scrutiny of law.
A special court had on March 11 summoned Singh as an accused in the case after observing that 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.
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Opinion: The Hindalco contradiction
It had also summoned five other accused namely Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group; former coal secretary P C Parakh; Hindalco Group executive president B Shubhendu Amitabh and managing director D Bhattacharya.
On Wednesday, apart from Singh, Birla, Bhattacharya and Parakh also approached the court and sought quashing of the summons.
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Singh, in his petition, has argued that the summoning order was not legal and against the principles of the criminal jurisprudence. Apart from challenging the order on various technical grounds, the petition maintained that there was no instance of alleged criminality that could be attributed to any of his acts as coal minister.
It has asked for an imminent stay on further proceedings, saying the summons would have grave ramifications on his personal liberty besides causing irreparable damage to his reputation.
A team of senior advocates, headed by Kapil Sibal, has settled Singh’s petition, which is likely to be mentioned before the Chief Justice of India for an urgent hearing in a day or two. The petition said there was nothing on record to point out that Singh has done any act which may constitute an offence. The former prime minister had taken decisions as a competent authority on allocation of Talabira-II coal block to Hindalco on the representation of Orissa government, it said.
As per the petition, the trial court judge had sought to substitute his own opinion over the views of the functionaries at various levels.
Birla’s petition said that the trial court order would pose a danger to criminal jurisprudence.
Birla said the trial court was completely wrong in understanding the mechanism of allocation and it failed to appreciate that the guidelines could not impinge on the discretion of the Prime Minister’s Office in dealing with these matters.