New Delhi: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has told CBI that he had "many other issues to worry" being at the helm of the government and it was practically not possible for him to know and recollect every guideline on coal block allocation.
On the contrary, he contended that it was for the then Coal Secretary P C Parakh to highlight those guidelines if they had a bearing on the decisions to be taken as Minister of Coal, a portfolio he was holding during 2005 when the issue of allocation of coal block for HINDALCO was discussed.
He maintained that he went by the advice of Parakh on the letter written by HINDALCO Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla for allocation of the coal block. Parakh was the "best qualified person to give me advice" on that letter, he added.
In his statement recorded in January before the CBI, which was probing the alleged scam in allotting the coal block to HINDALCO, he said he was not under pressure to accommodate the private firm in Odisha's Talabira-II coal block allocation. He has been summoned as accused by a special court in this regard.
Singh said there was "no undue haste" in arriving at a decision on the issue and the final decision on allocation of Talabira-II and III coal block was based on the examination and recommendation of Parakh which was endorsed by senior officials of PMO.
The Supreme Court had on April 1 stayed the trial court's order summoning Singh and others, including industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and ex-Coal Secretary P C Parakh, as accused in the case.
Singh, who was also the Minister of Coal at that time, was questioned by the CBI on January 19 this year after the trial court had on December 16, 2014, directed the agency to examine him in the case.
"On being asked about the relevant guidelines framed by Ministry of Coal which were applicable for allocation of coal block in 2005, especially to such parties who have already been allocated adequate coal linkage for their projects, I state that I do not recollect the applicable guidelines," Singh has told the investigating officer.
"As the Prime Minister of the country, I have many other issues to worry about and it is not practically possible for me to know and recollect such guidelines. It is for the Secretary (Coal) to highlight those guidelines in his note/ report if such guidelines would have a bearing on the decision to be taken as Minister of Coal," Singh said in his statement which has been placed on record before the court by CBI.
He also said it was not "humanly possible" at his level to go through all the previous files.
Singh, however, clarified that there was no question of any pressure on him or any officials to accommodate HINDALCO in the block.
"....I would like to state that there was no direction or pressure placed on any official to condition them to put up a particular recommendation. I also state that there was no question of any influence or pressure on me on this issue of accommodating HINDALCO in Talabira-II coal block," he said.
Singh also told the CBI that being the Prime Minister, he cannot be expected to divulge into earlier files and see what were the applicable guidelines on these issues and it was for the Coal Secretary to bring out such issues to his knowledge.
"I state that it was the job of the Secretary, MoC, to highlight all the relevant facts and circumstances concerning the issue being put up to me for a decision. I cannot be expected to know all the relevant facts connected to the issue. During 2005, P C Parakh was the Secretary, MoC," he said.
"On being asked I repeat that in dealing with this case, I was not under any pressure nor did I exercise any undue pressure on officials of the PMO or Coal Ministry, other than my general instructions that significant representations received from the CMs of states and other be processed expeditiously," Singh told the agency.