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Coalgate: Manmohan yet to be quizzed

In the Hindalco coal block allocation case, the CBI will quiz former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the next three weeks. According to sources, Singh has not been examined by the CBI so far though a special court had directed the agency to do.

Quashing the closure report filed by the CBI in the case, CBI Special Judge Bharat Parashar had directed the agency on December 16 to first examine Singh, who held the additional portfolio of coal minister at the time of the controversial allotment along with other senior officials.

Besides Singh, the court had also ordered the agency to examine BVR Subrahmanyam, then private secretary to the PM, and TKA Nair, then principal secretary in the PMO, to examine if the framed guidelines were duly followed in the process of coal block allocation to Hindalco in 2005. According to sources, the CBI will examine all these officials before January 27 when it has to submit a status report in the court.

The case relates to the allocation of Talabira-II and -III coal blocks jointly to Hindalco Industries (an Aditya Birla Group company) and two other firms in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district in 2005. CBI had booked Aditya Birla group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla (then non-executive chairman of Hindalco), P C Parakh (then coal secretary) and other Hindalco officials under various sections, including criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct on the part of government officials. Parakh was also heading the 25th screening committee which had earlier not recommended the allocation of the coal block to Hindalco.

When the coal block was allocated to Hindalco, Singh was holding additional charge of the Union coal ministry.

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