Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was “aware of everything” in the process of allocating a coal block to Naveen Jindal group firm, ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda told a special court on Wednesday. Koda, who sought summoning of Manmohan Singh as an accused, said if there was any conspiracy to allocate the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand to Jindal group firm, it could not have been without the knowledge of the then Prime Minister who was also the coal minister at that time.
“The coal minister (Singh) was aware of everything and if at all there was a conspiracy, as CBI says, it cannot be complete without the knowledge of the coal minister,” Koda’s counsel told Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar. The lawyer also argued that Singh cannot take the defence that he was kept in the dark in this case as he was aware of the entire process, which led to the allocation of the coal block to Jindal group firm.
He said that according to CBI, then minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao, who is also an accused in the case, wanted the coal block to be allocated to Jindal group but “actually the man behind this was the Prime Minister who approved it”. Koda’s counsel concluded his arguments on the plea after which senior public prosecutor V K Sharma said he would respond to it tomorrow.
Koda, in his plea, has sought to summon Singh as an accused along with Anand Swaroop, the then Secretary (Energy), and Jai Shankar Tiwari, the then Secretary(Mines and Geology), contending that CBI’s theory of conspiracy remains incomplete without the involvement of the then Prime Minister who was also holding the portfolio of Coal Ministry. He said Singh being the final authority to allocate coal blocks, cannot escape from the consequences of his decision.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block to two Jindal group companies, Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd (GSIPL). Koda, Congress leader and industrialist Naveen Jindal and 13 others were chargesheeted by the CBI in the case earlier. In his plea, Koda said, “the materials placed by CBI shows that the said conspiracy, if any, cannot be complete without the involvement of the Coal Minister (Singh) who had the final say in the entire allotment.”
“The materials on record show that the Coal Minister was aware of the facts of the case and had taken the decision consciously with full application of mind to allot coal block to JSPL and GSIPL…which according to the CBI is the result of conspiracy and is illegal. Hence, he (Singh) is also required to be summoned,” the plea said. It further said that the court is required to consider that the case of all the other accused “stand on a better footing as compared to Dr Manmohan Singh” who has taken the “ultimate and final decision” to allot the coal block to the two Jindal companies.
Noting that the charge sheet said that the allocation has been made wrongly and was not in public interest”, the application said hence “the ultimate final authority who made the allotment cannot be allowed to go scot-free without even facing the trial.” Referring to the facts of the case and a Delhi High Court verdict, Koda said in his plea “it is clear that Dr Manmohan Singh as Coal Minister has allotted the coal block without public interest and there is sufficient evidence on record warranting this court to summon him for facing trial” if CBI’s contention was accepted that the allotment was illegal.
The plea further said, “It is not possible to obtain the final allotment in favour of M/s GSIPL against public interest without the involvement of the final allotting authority, namely the Coal Minister.” It also said it would be “discriminatory and illegal” to charge one set of accused for having taken decision against public interest by recommending GSIPL’s name and, on the other hand, other set of officials, under whose signature the final allotment has taken place, are being allowed to go scot-free. Koda alleged that the “whole and sole responsibility” of coal block allocation rests with the Coal Minister as he was the final authority to take decision.
Regarding Swaroop and Tiwari, Koda said they were part of the three-member sub-group formed by Jharkhand Government to evaluate the pleas of firms and suggest suitable application for recommendation by the state. Koda alleged that as per evidence placed on record by CBI, the two officials, Swaroop and Tiwari, had specifically suggested the withdrawal of recommendations made in favour of M/s Lanco Infratech and further recommended enhancement of shares of M/s JSPL from 30 per cent to 70 per cent.
“It is therefore prayed that your lordship may graciously be pleased to summon Dr Manmohan Singh, the then Coal Minister /Prime Minister, Anand Swaroop, the then Secretary (Energy), and Jai Shankar Tiwari, the then Secretary(Mines and Geology), as accused persons for facing trial in the present case,” the plea said. Besides Jindal and Koda, former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao, ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta and 11 others, including five firms, are accused in the case.
The other individual accused in the case are — Rajeev Jain, Director of Jindal Realty Pvt Ltd, Girish Kumar Suneja and Radha Krishna Saraf, Directors of GSIPL, Suresh Singhal, Director of New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd, K Ramakrishna Prasad, Managing Director of Sowbhagya Media Ltd, and chartered accountant Gyan Swaroop Garg. Besides the ten accused, five firms — Jindal Steel and Power Ltd, Jindal Realty Pvt Ltd, Gagan Infraenergy Ltd (formerly known as GSIPL), Sowbhagya Media Ltd and New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd — are also accused in the case. While summoning them as accused, the court had said prima facie offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with sections 409(criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating) of IPC read with sections 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct by a public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act were made out against them.