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Explained: Coal scam – Manmohan Singh in the dock

The court has directed Singh and five other accused to appear before it on April 8.


What is the case in which Manmohan Singh has been summoned as accused?

It concerns the allocation, in 2005, of the Talabira-II coal block in Orissa to Mahanadi Coalfileds Ltd, Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd (NLC) and Hindalco, to be mined after the three entities formed a joint venture.

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What has the court said on Singh’s role?

That Singh, who was then in charge of the coal ministry, allowed the matter to be reopened even though he had himself permitted the approval of the minutes of 25th Screening Committee, which had recommended the allocation of the block to NLC.

The court has also observed that Singh’s approval of the proposal from former coal secretary and co-accused P C Parakh to accommodate Hindalco in the Talabira-II and III blocks, while ignoring the notes of caution sounded by PMO officials K V Pratap and Javed Usmani regarding relaxation of the already approved guidelines, prima facie shows a conscious effort on his part to somehow accommodate Hindalco in the Talabira-II block. The nod, given in alleged violation of established procedure and approved guidelines, hurt NLC, which already stood vested in it pursuant to the recommendation of Screening Committee, and allegedly resulted in defeating NLC’s efforts to establish a 2,000 MW power plant in Orissa.

What led the investigation to Singh’s door?

It was pointed out from the time of the “leak” of the draft CAG report in March 2012 that Singh was coal minister for at least a part of the time when the alleged “inefficient” allocations were made. In May of that year, Singh said the allegations against him were “unfortunate” and “irresponsible”, and that he would “give up public life” if they were proved. After the CAG’s final report was tabled in Parliament in August, Singh said the report’s observations were “clearly disputable”. In its edition of September 4, 2013, The Indian Express reported that the CBI’s investigating officer had said there was a “requirement” to examine Singh in the case, but the then CBI director Ranjit Sinha had shot down the idea “at this stage”. On December 16, 2014, the special court, while rejecting the CBI closure report, directed the agency to examine the then coal minister Singh, along with top officials of the PMO. On February 19, 2015, the CBI informed the court that they had completed the probe after examining Singh and PMO officials. The court fixed March 11 for consideration of the closure report. On Wednesday, the court rejected the closure report, took cognizance of the alleged offences, and summoned six accused, including Singh.

What are the charges against Singh?

The court has take cognizance of offences under IPC Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent), and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The charge of criminal breach of trust carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.

First published on: 12-03-2015 at 02:10:12 am
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