11/03/2015 11:48 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Coal Scam: Former PM Manmohan Singh, KM Birla Summoned As Accused

Outgoing Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh leaves after paying homage to former Indian prime minister Rajiv Gandhi on his death anniversary at his memorial, in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Rajiv Gandhi was killed by an ethnic Tamil suicide bomber in May 1991 as he campaigned for a return to the post of prime minister. He was 47 years old. (AP Photo /Manish Swarup)

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was summoned on Wednesday by a court accused of criminal conspiracy in an inquiry into the award of coal fields during his term, in a blow for the Gandhi dynasty that ruled India until last year.

A special court under the Central Bureau of Investigation summoned the former prime minister along with billionaire Kumar Mangalam Birla and another official to appear on April 8, a source at the agency said.

Most coal block awards made by Singh's government, which ran India for a decade, were overturned by the Supreme Court after it ruled the process illegal late last year.

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Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government, which ousted Singh's Congress-led administration last May, is now in the process of re-auctioning the fields in a process key to reducing India's heavy dependence on coal imports.

The summons relates to a coal field allocated in 2005 to Hindalco Industries , part of the $40 billion Aditya Birla Group. Kumar Mangalam Birla is the chairman of the group.

""Of course I am upset but this is a part of life. I'm sure I'll get a chance to put forward my case with facts. I'm sure that truth will prevail," Singh told ANI."

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar summoned the six accused on April 8 for the alleged offences punishable under Sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant, or by banker, merchant or agent) of the IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), reports PTI.

If convicted, the accused are liable to be sentenced for a maximum of life imprisonment.

He ruled as prime minister for a coalition led by the Gandhi dynasty's Congress party. His second term was mired in corruption scandals and accusations that party leader Sonia Gandhi called the shots in his government.Singh's image as a clean politician was damaged by the scale of corruption alleged to have taken place beneath him.

"The court has the full liberty to summon anyone. We know very well that Dr Manmohan Singh is totally innocent. He will give a reply. There is no problem. I don't think one should panic," Congress leader M Veerappa Moily said to PTI."

"The former government has absolutely nothing to hide. We conducted ourselves with utmost probity and transparency and the legal process will vindicate us," party spokesman Manish Tewari told Reuters.

"It is a Congress' scam and because of the Congress' sin, Manmohan ji, the economist (former) prime minister has to face this. They are responsible for bringing the former PM to this threshold," Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar told IANS.

Senior Congress leader Dr Karan Singh turned lyrical as he narrated an excerpt of a ghazal written by former Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, as he commented on the subject. "Bat karni kabhi aisi mushkil to na thi, jaisi ab hai teri mahfil kabhi aisi to na thi," (Conversing has never been so difficult for me, your company now is no more as it used to be), he told ANI.

(With inputs from Agencies)