Former prime minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said he was "upset" at being summoned as accused by a special court in a coal block allocation scam case.
"I am upset, but this is a part of life. I am sure that the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with facts," Singh told reporters.
"I have always said I am open to legal scrutiny," he added
The case pertains to the 2005 allocation of Talabira II coal block in Odisha. After taking cognisance of CBI's final investigation report in the matter, special judge Bharat Parashar held, that on the face of it, there was enough evidence to summon the former PM, who was also the coal minister at the time of allocation.
The Congress, meanwhile, rushed to the former PM's defence, saying receiving court summons does not make one guilty.
"I don't think anyone in India believes that Manmonhan Singh can do something wrong or corrupt. He was extremely cautious and he always wanted to be on the right side of the law. We shall defend Manmohan Singh with all our might," former Union minister Kapil Sibal told NDTV.
Congress Party spokesperson Manish Tewari said Singh was "a person of utmost integrity and probity".
Another spokesperson Sanjay Jha tweeted: "Sorry to puncture the brouhaha, but receiving a court summons does not make one guilty. That is elementary law. Right?"
Jha insisted that it was former PM Singh who pushed for auctions in coal block allocations. "He sought transparency, resisted by BJP-ruled states.The truth is coal block dubious allocations were all in non-Congress ruled states; MP, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Orissa, WB etc," he said.
Senior BJP leader and environment minister Prakash Javadekar denied that there was any element of vindictiveness in pursuing the case. "It is a Congress' scam and because of the Congress' sin, Manmohan ji, the economist (former) prime minister has to face this," Javadekar told reporters.
The court also summoned five others, including eminent industrialist KM Birla, former coal secretary PC Parakh and officials of M/s Hindalco, the company to which the coal blocks had been allocated.
The accused have been summoned to answer allegations of criminal conspiracy ( section 120 B) , breach of trust (409) and corruption (under the Prevention of Corruption Act).
Hindalco said it would study the order of the court in detail "and would defend its case through legal process."
"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.
Singh had headed the coal ministry between 2004 and 2009, for almost five years when the UPA government was in power. A number of coal block allocations made during that time are now being investigated by the CBI.