PMO showed undue interest in coal block allocation: Court

Posted By: IANS
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New Delhi, March 11 (IANS) Manmohan Singh showed "extra undue interest" in alleged illegal allotment of the Talabira-II coal block in Odisha to Hindalco, a Delhi court said on Wednesday while summoning the former prime minister as an accused in the case.

Manmohan Singh, who was also the then coal minister, made repeated reminders - written as well as telephonic - to the ministry of coal (MoC) to expeditiously process the allotment of the Talabira-II coal block to Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Hindalco.

PMO showed undue interest in coal block allocation: Court.
"The repeated reminders from the PMO, written as well as telephonic, to MoC to expeditiously process the matter in view of the letters received from K.M. Birla also prima facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by the PMO in the matter," the court remarked.

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar summoned the former prime minister for the alleged offences under criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust and provisions under the Prevention of Corruption Act on April 8, 2015.

The court also summoned Birla, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh and three others in the case.

"While Manmohan Singh is still a member of Rajya Sabha, his term of the Rajya Sabha during which he was holding the charge of minister of coal has since expired," the court said.

Under these circumstances, there was no requirement of obtaining any prior sanction to take cognizance of the offences against him under the Prevention of Corruption Act, it added.

The court said Manmohan Singh, as the then minister of coal, reopened the matter pertaining to allocation of the Talabira-II coal block even though he himself had permitted the approval of the minutes of 25th Screening Committee recommending allocation of the said coal block to government-owned Neyveli Lignite Corp. Ltd. (NLC).

"Also the omission to not refer the request of Hindalco to the Screening Committee in accordance with the established procedure being followed till that time again prima facie shows that it was a conscious decision to accommodate Hindalco in a joint coal block comprising of Talabira-II and Talabira-III coal block," the court said.

"His (Manmohan Singh) action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC, which was a PSU, and facilitated windfall profits to a private company, Hindalco," the court said, adding that this resulted in defeating the efforts of NLC to establish a 2,000 MW power plant in Odisha.

The court said Manmohan Singh ignored the words of caution put forth by K.V. Pratap and Javed Usmani, the two officers of the PMO, to accommodate Hindalco in Talabira-II and III coal blocks.

"In the present case, Manmohan Singh chose to keep the coal portfolio with him and thus prima facie he cannot claim that being prime minister, he could not be expected to personally look into the minute details of each and every case," the court noted.

While coming to a conclusion of possible involvement of the then prime minister in the present matter, the court said it had to "act with a heavy conscience and with full realisation" of its effect over the morale of the country as a whole.

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