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Press Trust Of India
New Delhi, October 17, 2013
Odhisa chief minister Naveen Patnaik may be questioned by CBI for writing a letter of support in favour of Hindalco, an Aditya Birla group company, after its bid for coal mines was rejected by coal ministry. CBI sources said Patnaik's letter was found during a probe into the alleged irregularities in allocation of coal block -- Talabira II -- to Hindalco. This coal field was meant for Public Sector Undertakings.

CBI said while no final decision has been taken as to who all would be questioned, the sources said the chief minister may be examined only if a need was felt to seek his views on the reasons for recommending coal blocks to Hindalco.

CBI's move against Birla has come under criticism from India Inc which had said such actions hamper business sentiment and investors' confidence in the country.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha said the case was being monitored by the Supreme Court. "We are providing all the details to the apex court in our status report to be filed later this month," he told reporters in New Delhi.

He denied that the filing of FIR had anything to do with the timing. "We registered the First Information Report on the basis of available material during the preliminary enquiry.

Further evidence would be gathered during further probe," he said.

CBI has alleged in its FIR that after rejection of Hindalco's plea in 2005, Birla wrote two letters and held a "personal meeting" with the then coal secretary P C Parakh, after which a decision was reversed and Hindalco was given the coal block which was earlier meant for two Public Sector Undertakings--Mahanadi Coal Fields and Neyveli Lignite.

While the CBI director ruled out that the agency was probing any quid pro quo between Parakh and Birla, he said "let the people be examined. We will file our final report in the court."

To a question that Parakh was praised by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) and had a clean track record, Sinha said CBI was not concerned with anyone's past, present or future.

Parakh's name cropped up during the probe and hence he will be questioned, he said.

Asked whether Odhisa chief minister would be questioned, he said "whosoever is required will be questioned in this case. His letter is part of investigation."  

CBI sources said 46-year-old Kumarmanglam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, had written a letter to the Prime Minister's Office which had forwarded the letter to the coal ministry.

CBI also claimed to have made a fresh recovery of documents from Aditya Birla group which included retail invoice of gold coins totalling to Rs. 94 lakh, investments in various schemes to the tune of Rs. 17 lakh besides Rs. 24 lakh 'petty cash'.

The agency is likely to hand over these documents to the Income Tax department, sources said.