Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is one of five individuals summoned by a special court presiding over a coal scam case concerning the allocation of a coal block in Odisha in 2005. The four other individuals summoned include two members of the Aditya Birla subsidiary Hindalco Industries, ex-Coal secretary P. C. Parakh and Industrialist and Chairman of the Aditya Birla Group, Kumar Mangalam Birla. They will appear before the court on the 8th of April.
The court had assigned the CBI to investigate the case, and after the investigation team recommended that the charges be dropped against Hindalco, was asked by the court to probe Mr. Singh’s involvement. Reportedly, the CBI questioned the former prime minister in January and specifically asked him whether a valuable coal field was allocated to the Hindalco group. The company itself refutes any charges.
If Mr. Singh is found guilty, it would further taint his already discolored legacy. The case refers to an allocation incident that transpired in 2005, early in his tenure as Prime Minister. His role in the incident will specifically be targeted, as he was in direct control of the Coal Ministry during the time.
Hindalco’s CEO Shubhendu Amitabh and Managing Director D. Bhattacharya are the two company officials that have been summoned. The company’s shares have taken a quick dive of 5% as a result of this development.
The charges laid against the accused include criminal conspiracy, corruption and breach of trust, under sections 120B, 409 of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act respectively. The maximum penalty for such crimes is life imprisonment.
In response to the charges, Mr Singh has stated that “the truth will prevail” and while upset by the allegations, accepts that “this is a part of life.”
Congress leader Manish Tiwari supports Mr Singh and believes that the “former PM and former government conducted itself with the utmost transparency.”
The Coalgate scandal of 2012 was a major scandal in which public sector entities and private companies were unethically awarded coal blocks.