A special court asked the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Tuesday why it did not examine former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also the coal minister at the time, in connection with the coal block allocation scam.
The court was hearing a case in which an FIR was lodged against businessman Kumar Mangalam Birla, ex-coal secretary PC Parakh and others relating to the allocation of two coal blocks in Odisha to Hindalco Industries in 2005.
“Don’t you think examination of the then coal minister was necessary in the matter? Don’t you feel the need to examine him? Don’t you think his statement was necessary to present a clear picture?” special CBI judge Bharat Parashar asked the agency.
The investigating officer said “the then coal minister was not permitted to be examined”, though officials from the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) were probed during the inquest and it was found that the coal minister’s statement was not required.
The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India had said that the UPA government’s allocation of coal blocks during the period 2004-09 may have cost the exchequer thousands of crores.
While hearing the CBI’s closure report in the Hindalco case, the court directed the bureau to tender its case diary and crime file by Thursday.
The FIR against Birla, Parakh and others was registered in October 2013 by the CBI. It alleged that the then coal secretary reversed his decision to reject allocation of coal blocks to Hindalco —part of the Aditya Birla Group led by Kumar Mangalam Birla — within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances” and showed “undue favours”.