No evidence against former PM in coal scam: CBI

RSTV Bureau
Sonia-n-Manmohan

FILE: Former PM Dr. Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia Gandhi during testing times when UPA-2 was facing several corruption allegations. Photo – PTI

Giving a clean chit to former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, the CBI on Monday categorically told the special CBI court that there was no evidence which even prima facie suggests involvement of the former Prime Minister in any alleged irregularities in coal block allocation. The CBI was arguing before the Special court in one of the matters related to the alleged irregularities in the coal block allocation during Congress led-UPA government.

Opposing the summoning of former PM Dr. Singh, as sought by former Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda, the Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) RS Cheema, representing the premier investigating agency, argued that Koda’s plea was “devoid of any merits”. Koda, one of the accused, had alleged a conspiracy in the allocation of coal block to Naveen Jindal Group firms.

“The present application is a device worked out by accused person so as to not only delay the present trial but also deviate the court from the case,” SPP R.S. Cheema told the court.

Citing the records, SPP Cheema argued before the bench of Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar that Dr. Singh, who held the Coal Portfolio at that time, had no complicity with any of the accused in any manner and there was no evidence to show that he had acted in a “mechanical manner” in the entire process.

India's energy needs“The records not even prima facie show anything to summon the then Prime Minister as accused in the case. The evidence does not show any complicity on the part of the then Prime Minister in allocation of coal block,” Mr. Cheema argued further adding that the “application is devoid of any merits. Investigation in the case is comprehensive and complete in all respect. We find no reasons to summon additional accused in the case now”.

The CBI counsel also argued that as per the case of the investigating agency, government machinery in Jharkhand had colluded with other accused to ensure that coal block is allotted to Jindal Group firms and it would not be correct to say that former PM Manmohan Singh had all the knowledge about what had happened in the state. Special PP R.S. Cheema went further to argue that the former PM had relied on the recommendation of the screening committee, which was a high-powered inter-ministerial body comprising several members.

Mr. Cheema also referred to the statements of various prosecution witnesses, including the then senior Prime Minister Office (PMO) officials — TKA Nair, Vini Mahajan and Ashish Gupta. Besides he also read out the official notings related to the matter during the course of his arguments before the court.

“The then Minister of Coal (Dr. Singh) had not made any such observation that the file be routed through Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayana Rao and even if he had said so, there was no illegality in it as the MoS (Coal) was the concerned person,” said R.S. Cheema.

“Bare perusal of the manner in which the files have been processed in the PMO shows that the then Prime Minister had duly applied his mind while making notes on the files and did not approve the recommendations in a mechanical manner,” R.S. Cheema said in a significant arguments in the case.

The Special CBI court is likely to pronounce the order on Mr. Koda’s plea on October 16.

(With inputs from the PTI)