NEW DELHI/NAGPUR: Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh does not have to appear in a Delhi court on April 8, the Supreme Court said today. The top court has suspended the summons sent to the politician by a CBI court last month. The investigating agency has three weeks to respond to Dr Singh’s petition against his summons.
Dr Singh, 82, had been told to make a personal appearance with industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla for a case that says a coal field was illegally awarded in 2005 to Hindalco, a company owned by Mr Birla. At the time, Dr Singh held direct charge of the Coal Ministry.
The former PM has not been charged with any crime but is being investigated for criminal breach of trust, criminal conspiracy, and corruption. He has denied any wrong doing. The CBI has twice said it would like to close the case against him, but has been over-ruled by the judge handling the matter.
“There was no criminal intent, it (the allotment) was an administrative decision and not an illegality,” said the politician’s lawyer, Kapil Sibal, who was also Telecom Minister in Dr Singh’s government. Two of Dr Singh’s three daughters were present in court today.
The case known as “Coalgate” came to light in 2012 after the national auditor said 1.86 lakh crores had been lost because coal blocks were distributed without a transparent bidding process. Last year, the Supreme Court declared as illegal nearly 300 coal licenses issued by consecutive governments since 1993. Over the last few weeks, 32 of the coal blocks were auctioned by the Modi government.
Judge Bharat Parashar of the CBI court said in the summons to Dr Singh that “a well-planned conspiracy was hatched” to award a coal field in Odisha to Hindalco Industries, part of the $40 billion Aditya Birla Group, which is chaired by Kumar Mangalam Birla.
Hindalco has said that it made its case for the mining license “in a transparent and lawful manner”.