Coalgate: Manmohan Singh Took Jindal Call, Say Accused Government Officials
NEW DELHI: The decision to allocate a coal field in Jharkhand to industrialist Naveen Jindal’s company was taken by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, two senior government officers accused of corruption have said today in court.
In 2007, the Prime Minister held direct charge of the Coal Ministry. Dasari Narayan Rao was the Minister of State for Coal. Mr Jindal, a Congress leader, and he are among 10 people accused of manipulating the licensing process to ensure a coal block was given to Mr Jindal’s steel company. The accused include former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and HC Gupta, the former Coal Secretary who headed the committee that allocated coal licenses.
“The decision regarding the final allocation was taken by the Minister of Coal, who was the then Prime Minister. I had nothing to do with it,” Mr Rao said through his lawyer.
The former Coal Secretary made a similar argument.The CBI has said earlier in court that though Dr Singh asked for Mr Jindal’s application to be reconsidered as another company was vying for the block, but it was Dasari Narayan Rao who cleared the license for Jindal Steel.
The same court in Delhi had summoned the former PM in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of another coal block to a firm owned by one of India’s most respected industrialists, Kumarmangalam Birla. The Supreme Court has suspended the ruling on Dr Singh’s appearance.
The 82-year-old was nearing the end of his second term as Prime Minister when his government was accused of a vast scam in coal mining rights. “Coalgate” was based on the national auditor’s report that nearly 1.86 lakh crores were lost because private firms conspired with government officials to land underpriced mining rights.
The Supreme Court then cancelled nearly 200 coal licenses issued by different governments since 1993; they are being auctioned by the NDA government.