Coalgate: Ex Indian PM Manmohan Singh faces court charges!
-Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
It is a known fact that India under the Congress party reign, especially under an innocent looking Manmohan Singh’s government, promoted rampant corruption as its key undeclared policy, and Dr. Singh seems to have been heavily influenced by outside sources and he did all this obviously as per the demands of the Indian corporate lords that reaped maximum benefits from that system of governance.
Rampant corruption and related scams had weakened the Congress led UPA coalition government and anti-corruption movement of social activists Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal eventually brought down the Congress government as the BJP and other Hindutva parties made maximum use of the fate of Congress party and won the parliamentary poll in 2014 with first ever majority of its own in the parliament guided by a strong BJP leader and Gujarat CM Narendra Modi. . .
Now the economist, Dr Singh is great trouble in coal scandal while Congress government is no more to save him.
A special Indian court on March 11 summoned former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, accusing him of criminal conspiracy and breach of trust for his alleged role in a multibillion dollar scandal over the sale of coal fields. The special CBI court noted that Manmohan Singh’s actions were in violation of established procedure and summoned him noting that it was fully aware the effect the order would have on “the morale of the country as a whole”.
CBI had shut case twice but judge reopened probe. Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar had grilled the CBI on whether they had questioned the former Prime Minister and officials from his office. The CBI proceeded to examine officials like TKA Nair and later even examined Singh a couple of times in January. Parashar noted that Singh’s approval for the allocation of the coal block to Hindalco was in violation of the established procedure, adding that Singh couldn’t claim that he couldn’t look into the minute details of every case because he was prime minister. The Judge said the prima facie involvement of the then Prime Minister in the present matter this Court had to act with a heavy conscience and with full realization, the present order or the observations/conclusions being made here will have over the morale of the country as a whole. Singh’s actions had facilitated windfall profits to Hindalco. Singh’s action resulted in defeating the efforts of NLC (Neyvelli Lignite Corporation) to establish a 2000 MW Power Plant in Odisha. His action thus prima facie resulted in loss to NLC which was a PSU and facilitated windfall profits to a private company
Detailing the role of Singh, the court said he had allowed the matter pertaining to allocation of Talabira-II coal block to be “reopened” even though he himself had permitted approval of minutes of 25th Screening Committee recommending allocation of allocating the said block to NLC. Singh had approved a proposal put forth by then Coal Secretary P C Parakh, a co-accused, to accommodate HINDALCO in Talabira II and III coal block while ignoring the “words of caution” put-forth by two PMO officials K V Pratap and Javed Usmani. Prima facie indicate the extra undue interest shown by the PMO in the matter,
The action of the special judge doesn’t come as a surprise when one looks at the fact that he hasn’t been afraid to take on the investigating agency on multiple occasions. the judge had earlier warned former CBI director Ranjit Sinha that he would be held responsible for any shortcomings in the probe and had also reprimanded the investigating team for lacking basic skills. In the past he had sentenced the killer of ex-dacoit Phoolan Devi and come down hard on the Delhi Police for constantly seeking adjournments in the IPL spot-fixing case.
Judges ordered Singh and five others to appear in court on April 8. The court has also summoned a former coal secretary and the multi-billionaire head of Hindalco Industries, Kumar Mangalam Birla, to appear on April 8. If convicted, the defendants could be sentenced for a maximum of life imprisonment.
India’s Supreme Court last year scrapped all 218 allocations of coal reserves from 1993 to 2010 saying they were carried out under procedures that were arbitrary and lacked fairness and transparency. Singh’s Congress party-led government was accused by critics of costing India’s treasury billions of dollars.
Singh as prime minister of the former Congress-led government had direct charge of the coal ministry when some of the coal field allocations to private companies were made. Manmohan let the coal companies mint money as freely as they can because government has very control over the corrupt practices. He was questioned by the CBI in January about the allocation of a coal field in Odisha state in 2005 to Hindalco Industries.
Reacting to the summons, Singh said he is “open for legal scrutiny.” “I am sure that the truth will prevail and I will get a chance to put forward my case with all the facts,” he said in a statement, approved by Congress party high command.
The scandal, along with several other high-profile cases of alleged graft, aggravated by anti-corruption movements was a key reason for the Congress party’s huge loss in last year’s elections to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.
Modi’s government has begun a process of re-auctioning the coal blocks and hopes to recoup the true value of the coal reserves. Senior BJP leader and Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar denied that there was any element of vindictiveness in pursuing the case. “The courts do not operate under the BJP. They operate independently,” Javadekar told reporters. “Manmohan Singh was the prime minister. He was in office. He should have exercised his diligence,” he said. Congress Party spokesman Manish Tewari said Singh was “a person of utmost “integrity and probity”.
Now it remains to be seen if the court can uncover evidence against Singh, when it has been unsuccessful in doing so thus far since there are many in Congress party who may be more culpable in the case than Singh and seeking to undo the investigation efforts. Manmohan, considered lucky person for the Congress party and hence he was made PM without participating in the parliamentary poll, without getting elected by people to parliament and bypassing all senior members of the party, is set to challenge the summons
Congress high command is still behind Manmohan. Whether or not his criminality as Indian PM would be eventually proven, the court proceedings will prove to be an undesirable blot on a Singh’s carefully maintained image of incorruptibility.