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CBI tells court it was not permitted to examine Manmohan Singh

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New Delhi: The CBI on Tuesday came in for some tough questioning from a special court hearing a coal blocks allocation scam case when it asked why the agency did not question former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh when he was also holding the Coal portfolio between 2005 and 2009.

The court’s observations came after CBI submitted that though initially it felt Singh’s examination was necessary later it found that it was not required.

At the end of the hearing, the court summoned the case diary and crime file in a sealed cover and posted the matter for November 27.

During the hearing, the investigating officer (IO) told the judge, “the coal minister was not permitted to be examined.”

“PMO officials were examined. The then minister of coal was not examined in the light of the statement of PMO officials,” the IO said, adding, “It was found that his statement was not necessary”.

“Don’t you think examination of the then coal minister was necessary in the matter? Didn’t you feel the need to examine him? Don’t you think his statement was necessary to present a clear picture?,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar asked the IO.

The court was hearing a case in which an FIR was lodged against industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, ex-Coal Secretary P C Parakh and others relating to allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in Odisha in 2005 to Hindalco. CBI had later on filed closure report in the case.

Former Prime Minister Singh was holding the portfolio of coal ministry when Birla’s firm Hindalco was allocated coal blocks in Orissa’s Talabira II & III in 2005.

During the hearing, the IO also told the court that during the probe, then PMO officials, T K A Nair and Javed Usmani, were examined by the agency in connection with the case.

To this, the judge asked the IO, “did you examine the witnesses personally or you had send questionnaire to them?.”

As soon as the hearing began, the judge, who was scheduled to pass an order on CBI’s closure report, said that it would not be delivered today as he has to seek some clarifications from the agency.

After the IO told the court about the examination of witnesses, the court asked, “Can I have the police diary and crime file of the case.”

To this, senior public prosecutor V K Sharma said that if the court was passing any order summoning these files then the agency would file it in a sealed cover.

“Certain clarifications have been sought as regards the witnesses who all were examined and the manner of their examination by the IO during the course of investigation. IO states that though he has examined certain officers of PMO but the then Minister of Coal was not examined,” the judge noted in his order.

“IO also states that the accused persons were also examined but their statements were kept in the case diary file and in the crime file only.

“In these circumstances, I am of the considered opinion that for a better comprehension of all the facts and circumstances of the present matter it will be appropriate that the case diary file and the crime file be both summoned for perusal of the Court in sealed cover,” the court said and posted the matter for hearing on November 27.

The FIR against Birla, Parakh and others was registered in October last year by CBI which had alleged that Parakh had reversed his decision to reject coal block allocation to Birla’s firm Hindalco within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances” and shown “undue favours”.

CBI had booked Birla, Parakh and other Hindalco officials under various IPC sections, including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on part of government officials.

The agency had later on filed closure report in the case.

Earlier on November 10, CBI had told the court that there was “prima facie enough material” to proceed against some private parties and public servants in the case.

The Supreme Court-appointed special public prosecutor (SPP) R S Cheema for CBI had submitted before the judge that the court can take cognisance of the offences mentioned in the closure report as there was prima facie “evidence against the accused to show their involvement”.

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