CBI Court summons ex-PM Manmohan Singh in the ‘Coalgate’ scam case

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On Wednesday, a special Central Bureau of Investigation Court has summoned ex-Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in a matter concerning allegations of criminal conspiracy and corruption during the award of a coal field. Mr. Kumar MangalamBiral and another official were also asked to appear on April 8 before the same Court.

Mr. Singh appeared distressed and stoic at the issue of summons, while speaking to the reporters. He is being investigated on allegations of criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption though he has not been formally charged with an offence. As he had been earlier exempted from the CBI investigation, several Congress spokespersons were outraged as they observed that the summons may be a case of political vendetta owing to Congress’s opposition to BJP’s economic agenda. However, BJP denied holding any political grudges against Mr. Singh.

Last year the Supreme Court had annulled the award of most of the coal blocks, deeming the allotment process illegal. The “Coalgate” scam into the public domain in 2012 after a CAG report noted that the coal-auctions had resulted in the loss of revenue up to Rs. 1.86 lakh crore owing to collusion of bureaucrats and private companies which sought to depress the price of the said coal blocks.

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The summons relate to the allotment of Talabira-II coal block in 2005 to Hindalco Industries which are a part of the Aditya Birla group. Judge Bharat Parashar observed in the summons that a well-planned conspiracy was hatched in order to allot the impugned coal field to Hindalco after Kumar MangalamBirla, the group chairman had actively lobbied for the same with Mr. Singh (the Coal Ministry at the time was under the helm of PMO).

Hindalco however claimed that it had lobbied for the block during its bid, in a manner that was transparent and lawful.

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by Siddhartha Singh.