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Coal scam: CBI says enough evidence to take cognizance against Birla, Parakh

In an apparent u-turn, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) told a special court in the city on Monday that it had enough evidence to “take cognizance of various offences” against top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla, former coal secretary P C Parakh and others, in the alleged coal scam case after the court came down heavily on the agency for its hastiness to close the case.

“Lead Special Prosecutor states that from the overall facts and circumstances, there is prima facie enough material on record to take cognizance of various offences under Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code against the private parties and some of the public servants involved in the process of allocation of impugned coal block,” CBI Special Judge Bharat Parashar said here.

The Aditya Birla group declined to comment on the matter. “As the matter is sub-judice, it’s inappropriate for us to comment,” said a company spokesperson.

The CBI also submitted “a compilation of relevant documents” for a ready reference of the court. The court will hear the matter on November 25.

The Supreme Court appointed-special public prosecutor (SPP) R S Cheema submitted before the court that it can take cognisance on the revised closure report filed by it on October 21.

The case relates to the joint allocation of Talabira-II and -III blocks to Hindalco Industries Limited, a subsidiary of Birla-promoted Aditya Birla Group along with two more firms in in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district in 2005. The CBI had booked Birla (then non-executive chairman of Hindalco), Parakh (then coal secretary) and other officials of Hindalco under IPC sections including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on the part of government officials.

On September 12, the CBI court had questioned the agency for closing the case against Birla, Parakh and others. CBI special judge Parashar had said, “What was the hurry to close this case?” The CBI had filed a filed a closure report due to lack of evidence of wrong-doing against Birla and Parakh on August 28.

The court’s observation had come after CBI’s investigative officer was unable to produce the original minutes of the screening committee’s meeting at which the Birla-owned Hindalco was awarded coal blocks. The officer had said the files “were missing”.

The judge had countered saying there is no statement from anyone showing that the original minutes were missing. “On what basis have you drawn such a conclusion (to close the case)? What kind of investigation have you done? What was the supervisory officer doing? Bring the police file and call your supervisory officer in the court now,” the judge had further asked.

Since then, the CBI had wanted time to respond to the observations of the court. On October 21, the CBI had filed a “detailed and comprehensive” revised closure report.

Last October, the FIR against Birla, Parakh and others was registered by the CBI alleging that Parakh had shown “undue favours” to Hindalco by reversing his decision to reject the coal block allocation to the firm within months “without any valid basis or change in circumstances”.

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