The CBI is likely to seek clarifications from Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik and certain officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) for alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Talabira-II coal blocks to a private firm Hindalco in 2005.
Patnaik allegedly wrote a letter recommending the allocation of the coal blocks to the firm — a group company of the Aditya Birla group — to the PMO after the inter-ministerial screening committee had allocated them to the state-owned Neyveli Lignite Corporation (NLC) in May 2005, said a CBI official. On Thursday, Patnaik explained his letter to the power requirements of the company’s aluminium smelter plant in Sambalpur district.
Asked about Patnaik’s recommendation and the role of PMO officials, CBI director Ranjit Sinha told HT, “The recommendation letter is part of the probe. We will probe anybody if required.”
“There is evidence that Parakh overturned the panel’s decision. He would get a chance to explain if he had a valid reason for his action which was then being opposed by others.”
Sinha, however, emphasised that the agency only wanted to find the truth. “If we find there is no evidence against the accused in this case, we will not hesitate to inform the Supreme Court and file a closure report.”
The CBI director’s promise for fair play came on a day lawyer ML Sharma moved the SC to seek directions to get the CBI to name Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in its FIR.
“Patnaik sent his recommendation to the PMO before Birla met Parakh in July 2005 to request for the coal blocks’ allocation to his firm,” said the official. “We are scrutinising Patnaik’s letter and will seek his clarifications when required,” he said.