Coal case: Summons to Manmohan withheld
New Delhi: In a relief to former prime minister Manmohan Singh, the Supreme Court on Wednesday put on hold the summons issued by a special court in connection with the allocation of 15 percent share in the Talabira II coal block to Kumar Mangalam Birla owned Hindalco.
The apex court bench of Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice C. Nagappan suspended the summons by the special court holding trial of coal scam cases as senior counsel Kapil Sibal, questioning the March 11 order summoning Manmohan Singh, asked where was the act of illegallity.
Posing a number of questions, Sibal said: “Is it illegal to allocate mines? Is it illegal to choose private parties to allocate the mines?” Sibal asked where was the illegality.
Can the prime minister not review the decisions of the steering committee and balance the competitive public interest by allocating a part of Talabira II to Hindalco?
Sibal said that the guidelines for the allocation of the coal blocks were not statutory in nature and the prime minister can any time take decisions bypassing the guidelines.
While suspending the summons issued by the special court, the court issued notice to the CBI on a batch of petitions challenging the March 11 order.
The court also issued a notice to the central government on a writ petition by Kumar Mangalam Birla who challenged the constitutional validity of a section in the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Besides the summons to Manmohan Singh, the court also put on hold the summons against industrialist Kumar Manglam Birla, former coal secretary P.C. Parakh, D. Bhattacharya and Hindalco.
Manmohan Singh on March 25 moved the apex court to contest the special court’s March 11, 2015, order directing him to appear before it for granting a share in the combined Talabira II and Talabira III coal block in Orissa to Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Hindalco in 2005.
The special court trying coal block allocation scam cases on March 11 summoned Manmohan Singh, Birla, Parakh and Bhattacharya for offences of criminal conspiracy, breach of trust, and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The court summoned Manmohan Singh, Birla and Parakh after it rejected the closure report by the CBI.
Reacting to the Supreme Court putting on hold the summon against Manmohan Singh, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, “It’s a part of judicial process and the case was sub-judice”.
BJP spokesperson Nalin Kohli told IANS that it was a judicial process and every citizen enjoys certain rights before the law.
“It’s a part of judicial process. The matter is sub-judice and every citizen, irrespective of his/her stature, enjoys equal rights before the law,” he said.
Singh moved the apex court on March 25, challenging the summons issued by special court Judge Bharat Parashar on March 11 over the allocation of Talabira II coal block in Odisha to Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Hindalco in 2005.