Coalgate: Odisha CM Naveen Patnaik defends his letter to PM; CBI may question him

Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik defended himself on Thursday saying that his letter to the Centre in 2005 was only to examine the request of Hindalco and nothing more.

Updated: Oct 18, 2013, 00:34 AM IST

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik defended himself on Thursday saying that his letter to the Centre in 2005 was only "keeping the best interest of the state in mind".

This came after CBI sources said the investigation agency could be questioning him in relation to the coal blocks allocation scam as its officials were scrutinising a letter written by Patnaik requesting for a relook and reverse rejection of Hindalco`s application for Talabira II block in Odisha.

"Keeping the best interests of the state in mind, the Chief Minister had written a letter to the PM indicating that Hindalco`s request for Talabira II coal block in the IB valley of Jharsuguda district be examined," Odisha government said in a press statement.

Patnaik said he had urged the Prime Minister to examine Hindalco`s request for coal block, "But as per the procedure for coal block allocation, the final decision rests with the central government," he added.

Patnaik`s letter to the Prime Minister letter dated August 17, 2005, read, "I would strongly urge you to have the matter examined so that this vitally important project is provided with required coal linkage at an early date."

Earlier, it was reported that CBI planned to question Patnaik in connection with alleged irregularities in allocation of coal block to Hindalco as he had written a letter to the Coal Ministry after application of the Aditya Birla’s company was rejected in 2005.
CBI said while no final decision has been taken as to who all would be questioned, the sources said the Chief Minister would be questioned only if need was felt to seek his views on the reasons for recommending coal blocks to Hindalco.

CBI sources said 46-year-old Kumar Manglam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, had written a letter to the Prime Minister`s Office which had forwarded the letter to the Coal Ministry.

CBI has alleged in its FIR after rejection of Hindalco`s plea in 2005, Birla wrote two letters and held a "personal meeting" with the then Coal Secretary P C Parakh, after which a decision was reversed and Hindalco was given the block which was earlier meant for two Public Sector Undertakings--Mahanadi Coal Fields and Neyveli Lignite.

Pursuant to these letters and personal meeting between Parakh and Birla, Parakh, by abusing his official position as a public servant, recommended the allocation of Talabira II along with Talabira III coal block to Hindalco Industries Limited, along with other two companies without any valid basis or change in circumstances and with the sole intention to show undue favours to Hindalco Industries Limited," the agency alleged in its FIR.

The allegations have been denied by Hindalco and Parakh. The former Coal Secretary has said if he was a conspirator, so was Prime Minister as he had signed the allocation letter to Hindalco.

The agency, in the meanwhile, has started scrutinising the documents recovered from searches at the five offices of Hindalco and residence of Parakh in Hyderabad on October 15.

The sources said the agency would question Birla and Parakh in connection with the case but that might take time as CBI officials would first examine the documents to gather material evidence.

Sources said the FIR is the first step and all the allegations would be probed during the course of investigations. They said the agency has named people in the FIR only on the prima facie evidence basis and further investigation is going on.

With agency Inputs