Coalgate: UPA ministers defend PM; CBI says following rule book

A day after the CBI triggered a political storm by naming Aditya Birla Group chairman KM Birla in connection with the coal scam, the agency on Thursday claimed that it was just following the SC`s guidelines in the case.

By Ritesh K Srivastava | Updated: Oct 17, 2013, 15:33 PM IST

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: A day after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) triggered a political storm by naming Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Hindalco in connection with the coal scam, the probe agency on Thursday claimed that it was just following the Supreme Court`s guidelines in this regard.

"It`s not our concern what other agencies said about the former coal secretary PC Parakh. We have evidence on record that it was Parakh who overturned the screening committee decision and coal block was allotted to the Birlas. This is a Supreme Court-monitored investigation and we are going by the rule book," CBI director Ranjit Sinha said.

The CBI chief however added, "This is the initial stage of investigation and a chance will be given to all accused to defend themselves."

Meanwhile, Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal today defended the Prime Minister, saying, "The whole country knows that he is honesty. He does not need a certificate from anyone."

MoS PMO V Narayanasamy also defended allocation of coal blocks, saying "Allocations were made on state Govt`s recommendations."

"We (GoI) have nothing to hide, allocation have been done it in a transparent manner," Narayanasamy said.

The reactions from the UPA Ministers and the CBI director came in the wake of concerns expressed by the senior UPA ministers, and industry heavyweights and bureaucrats over FIRs lodged against corporates in the coal scam.

Bureaucrats are reportedly worried after former coal secretary Parakh was named in the FIR and sources claim that the IAS association will meet on October 19 to discuss the issue.

The CBI has accused Parakh of misusing his official position and reversing his decision to reject coal block allocation to Hindalco within months "without any valid basis or change in circumstances" and to show "undue favours".

In the FIR relating to allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in 2005, the CBI has named Parakh, Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and Hindalco on various charges including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on part of government officials.

The agency has said that during the 25th Screening Committee meeting, chaired by Parakh, applications of Hindalco and Indal Industries were rejected for mining in Talabira II and III "citing valid reasons".
On the recommendations of the Screening Committee, the coal blocks were allocated to Mahanadi Coalfields and Neyveli Lignite Corporation, both public sector undertakings. These recommendations were placed before the "Competent Authority" which agreed with Parakh, who later issued letter of allocation to the PSUs on June 16 and July 15 of 2005.

Within days, a "personal meeting" took place between Parakh and Birla in which the industrialist requested for the allocation of Talabira II coal block, CBI said.

"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.

It claimed Parakh ignored the considered deliberations and recommendations of Screening Committee of which he was the Chairman.
Defending his decision, Parakh said "There is absolutely nothing wrong with the decision. It was a very fair and correct decision that we took. I don`t know why CBI thought that there is a conspiracy." He wanted Prime Minister also to be included as a conspirator.

Denying any wrong doing, Hindalco spokesperson said,"To imply that Our Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla managed to overturn the decision of Screening Committee is preposterous."

Meanwhile, the opposition parties led by the BJP has demanded the Prime Minister to own up responsibility in the coal scam and asked Parakh to open up on the issue.

With PTI inputs