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Coal scam: Birla meets FM, says nothing's wrong

Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, named by the CBI in a case regarding allocation of a coal block to group company Hindalco, on Friday said the company had done no wrong. Accusations against Birla will hit investors' sentiment: Narayana Murthy

delhi Updated: Oct 19, 2013 12:46 IST
HT Correspondent

Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, named by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in a case regarding allocation of a coal block to group company Hindalco, on Friday said the company had done no wrong.

Birla also said he was not worried about the fallout of the CBI case on the group's application for a bank licence.

"As of now, I am not worried about it. There is nothing wrong (that) has been done, so why should one worry?" he told reporters on whether the CBI probe will hurt the group’s prospects for a bank licence.

Birla met finance minister P Chidambaram and revenue secretary Sumit Bose on Friday and said he discussed with the former the FIR filed by the investigation agency.

"I obviously brought this up with the finance minister...So many other things to talk goes on. We are in so many other industries. There are so many other things to discuss with him," he said.

Earlier this week, the CBI had lodged a case against former coal secretary PC Parakh and industrialist and Birla for alleged irregularities in the allocation of two coal blocks in Odisha in 2005.

The company has denied any wrongdoing.

“We wish to state unambiguously that we have followed every process required for allocation of coal completely, as stipulated by the government policy,” a Hindalco statement had said on Tuesday.

“To imply that our chairman managed to overturn the decision of the Screening Committee, is preposterous,” Hindalco managing director D Bhattacharya had said in a statement.

Meanwhile, 63% of CEOs think that the case against Birla is ‘completely unjustified’, according to a survey of top industry executives in India. What is more worrisome is that all unanimously agreed that such a move would hurt investor sentiment.

CEOSpeak, an exclusive survey conducted between October 1 and 18 by Hindustan Times along with research agency MaRS. A total of 59 industry leaders participated in the survey.

A majority of respondents were pessimistic about the chances of an upturn in the economy before next year’s general elections. Many, however, see a beacon of hope in the new RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan, as 61.7% of them said that he will be better than his predecessor, D Subbarao.

India not under Aurangzeb’s rule: Moily

As industry voiced concern over the CBI naming KM Birla in the case, oil minister M Veerappa Moily said investigating agencies and the judiciary must ensure that India does not become like Russia, where investors are not prepared to go and billionaires are put behind bars.

Moily said India is not under "Aurangzeb's rule" but under rule of law, where action has to be taken based on cogent evidence, not just on mere perception.

"I am not here to give a value judgment on that, but at the same time I think the time has come to ensure that whatever we do should be in accordance with strict rule of law. And ultimately, on mere perception you cannot proceed against anybody unless there is cogent evidence to proceed with," he told reporters here.

The minister said the CBI has proceeded in the matter on certain lines, which, if based on evidence, "nobody can question" but if not, then "we should be careful."

Read more:

Naveen Patnaik, PMO officers under CBI scanner

India Inc shocked at FIR against Birla; govt defends PM

BJP says 'PM can't escape responsibility' in coalgate