The prime minister’s office (PMO) on Friday handed over to the CBI a crucial file that explains why and how the government decided to allocate the Talabira coal block in Odisha to private firm Hindalco in 2005.
The CBI had put in a request for the file on Tuesday, two days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s departure on a visit to Russia and China. On his way back on Thursday, Singh had offered to respond to any questions the CBI may have, stressing that he was not above the law and had nothing to hide.
Following up on the PM’s assertion, a PMO official said the file was handed over to the agency on Friday and a receipt taken for it.
The operational part of the file - answering all the CBI’s questions - was made public by the PMO last week. Singh’s office had placed excerpts from it on its website along with a promise to cooperate with the probe. It was after this suo moto statement that the CBI woke up to the existence of this file and requested it.
A CBI spokesperson confirmed receiving the file in the evening, saying, "We will scrutinize it to see if all required documents and details are there."
An agency official added that they had not found any document so far at the coal ministry that justified former coal secretary PC Parakh’s action of overturning a screening committee recommendation and approving the coal block allocation to Hindalco, an Aditya Birla Group company.
A top government source said this reflected poorly on the CBI, which appeared to have registered a case against Parakh and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla without studying the complete set of documents.
The CBI started its probe into the allocation of coal blocks to joint venture companies on September 28, 2012. Earlier this month, it lodged an FIR against Parakh, charging him with reversing the decision of the screening panel that he headed in 2005 without adequate reasons.
A PMO source said the CBI had never asked for the crucial file earlier but only sought files in relation to the comptroller and auditor general’s report on coal block allocations.
It was only after the FIR - which many in the government and corporate sector have called half-baked - embarrassed the Centre that the PMO suspected the CBI had moved on inadequate information and put out its summary in public domain.
Inputs from Abhishek Sharan
Video: Have nothing to hide, says PM
With inputs from Agencies