Concerted effort to manipulate machinery: Court in coal case

Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla’s letters to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to re-open the issue of allocation…

Kumar Mangalam Birla, Aditya Birla Nuvo

Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla’s letters to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh sought to re-open the issue of allocation of Talabira-II coal block, a special court today observed adding that a “concerted effort” was being made to “manipulate” the entire machinery to protect Hindalco’s interest.

Directing CBI to examine Manmohan Singh, who was holding the charge of Coal Ministry in 2005, Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said that pursuant to the May 7, 2005 and June 17, 2005 letters written by Birla to the then Prime Minister, the issue was again “sought to be re-opened”.

“It will be worthwhile to reiterate that when the matter was again sought to be re-opened pursuant to the two letters written by Kumar Mangalam Birla to the Prime Minister as were received in the Ministry of Coal through PMO, the then section officer Premraj Kuar had observed that it will not be possible to accede to the request of allocation of Talabira-II Coal Block to M/s HINDALCO,” the judge said in his 50-page order.

The court also observed that Kuar’s note was “conveniently overlooked/not approved” at the higher levels.

“Thus if in the light of the aforesaid documents recovered the subsequent meetings which Kumar Mangalam Birla had initially with the Prime Minister and thereafter with P C Parakh or with Dasari Narayan Rao (the then Minister of State for Coal and Mine) are seen, coupled with the two letters dated May 7, 2005 and June 17, 2005 written by him to the Prime Minister requesting for allocation of Talabira-II Coal Block, then it is found that a concerted effort was being made to manipulate the entire Government machinery so as to protect the interest of M/s HINDALCO,” it said.

Referring to the notings of PMO officials, the court said after Birla wrote the second letter to Manmohan Singh, B V R Subramanyam, the then PS to Prime Minister, made a note on June 22, 2005, which said, “A letter handed over to the Prime Minister by Kumar Mangalam Birla on the issue of allocating an additional coal block for captive mining in Orissa is placed below.

“The Prime Minister desires that this matter be pursued on priority so that a decision is arrived at on this long pending matter at the earliest so that the employment and revenue potential of the project is fully achieved,” the note said.

The judge observed that “various reminders” were issued to Ministry of Coal (MoC) by the PMO in June-July 2005 seeking early response to the letters of Birla.

“Javed Usmani, Joint Secretary, PMO and K V Pratap, Dy. Secretary PMO also pursued the matter with MoC telephonically at least 6 times asking the Ministry to expedite the reply,” the court said.

The court, in its order, referred to Rs 25,01,41,100 which was recovered from the New Delhi-based office of M/s Aditya Birla Management Corporation Pvt Ltd during the investigation conducted by CBI.

The court also referred to letters recovered by CBI which were written by Subendu Amitabh, Group Executive President, to Managing Director of Hindalco in January 2005.

It noted that in a letter, Amitabh had written to the MD of Hindalco mentioning the crux of proceedings of 25th screening committee meeting held on January 20, 2005 wherein claim of the firm was not approved.

“We are of the opinion that we need to now focus on both, polity and bureaucracy. Request you to indicate a time-frame at the earliest when a meeting with Secretary, Coal Mr (P C) Parakh can be organised here at Delhi. As regards polity, shall look forward to discussing with you over the phone,” the letter said.

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