CBI resorting to blackmail
Is the CBI above law? By public belief, no one is. All laws, enacted by people’s representatives in a legislature, must find their root in the Constitution which is the supreme. CBI is not above the Constitution. But, its operational style over the years under political tutelage provides ample evidence of illegality and arbitrariness bordering on disrespect to the Constitution in dealing with sensitive cases, especially when it comes to shield, protect and promote the interest of the agency’s ultimate political masters. It uses character assassination and image destruction of the parties it is asked to investigate on as major tools to frame them, which often fail to stand the scrutiny of the law of the land in the end.
Yet, no CBI director or on-field investigators have gone to jail and their personal assets attached for failing to establish the agency’s frivolous charges against an accused, half-way withdrawal of cases and deliberate soldiering in investigation into certain other cases on the prompting of its political masters, despite causing enormous damage to the reputation of the accused often leading to massive financial loss to the subject. During the course of investigation, CBI uses its extra-legal authority to feed the public through the media with saucy, unsubstantiated allegations against the subject to morally and psychologically cripple them even before charges are framed and trial starts. At pre-trial media briefings, the rule is the CBI ‘spokesperson’ can’t be named or photographed. The mischievous media briefings start from the moment an FIR is lodged.
Under the political patronage at the highest level of the government, the CBI does not even bat an eyelid to name in its FIR a Tata, Birla or Ambani in alleged corporate-corruption cases claiming huge presumptive loss to the exchequer even before it is able to lay its hands on a piece of reliable paper against such high-profile subjects that will stand the judicial scrutiny. The political patronage is so strong and unflinching that CBI has the guts to disrespect even a Supreme Court directive to illegally share reports of sensitive court-monitored investigation in advance with a powerful political executive, ostensibly to protect the head of the government.
It takes a corruptor and a corrupted to corrupt. Both are guilty under the law. Why is CBI choosing one and not the other in pursuing its investigation into high-profile, politically-sensitive corruption cases? Why certain very hi-profile ministers of a ruling political party were never interrogated in multi-billion dollar-corruption and bribery cases such as CWG spending, 2G spectrum allocation, defence purchase, Air-India Boeing orders, coal block allocation, etc., involving them? How did a cabinet minister directly named in a bribery case in high-level Railway appointment finds himself ultimately as one of the mere CBI witnesses leaving his nephew, an outsider, to bear the burnt?
How cocksure is CBI to drag the name of Kumar Mangalam Birla, a part-time chairman of a public company, in its FIR in a corruption-cum-procedural irregularity case in coal block allocation in 2005 to a jointly promoted enterprise in which Birla firm’s stake is only 15 per cent? Why only a former coal secretary –and, not his peers and higher ups in the departments at that time -- was named in the CBI FIR? No secretary in the union or state government enjoys an arbitrary authority to allocate national resources to an entity of his or her choice? What was his minister doing at that time?
Shares of AV Birla Group companies fell to a three-month low after CBI filed the FIR and registered a case against the Group chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla for alleged irregularities in allocation of coal mining rights in 2005. CBI claims the Birla firm did not meet the criteria to get the mining lease. Birlas have strongly denied the charges. Hindalco Industries’ scrip tanked 4.97 percent to Rs 105.10. Aditya Birla Nuvo fell by 4.16 percent to Rs 1,209.90, Idea Cellular lost 1.35 per cent to Rs 182.45 on the BSE. Grasim shares fell by 1.18 per cent. Aditya Birla Chemicals’ was down 1.42 per cent and Aditya Birla Money shed 3.71 percent. In the process, the group lost several hundred crores of rupees in terms of market capitalization in a single day.
Hindalco reacted sharply to media reports on FIR naming its chairman in the FIR on the coal issue, saying it followed all the rules.
CBI has reportedly alleged that the Birla’s firm was accommodated while making the allotment of the said coal block which was exclusively meant for PSUs. It alleged that the screening committee’s recommendations were overturned by the coal secretary to favour Hindalco. CBI claims it discovered that Birla met former coal secretary P C Parakh, to push for the allocation of the Talabira II coal block in Odisha’s Jharsuguda district in 2005. The coal block has reserves of about 153 million tonne. It was allotted to Hindalco, along with two PSUs, for captive power production of 900 MW for its greenfield aluminium project in Odisha. Talabira II is crucial for Hindalco’s Aditya Aluminium, which is setting up a 4.2-million-tonne capacity bauxite mine, 1.5-million-tonne alumina refinery and a 359,000-tonne smelter.
Hindalco chief executive Debu Bhattacharya clarified that the application for the Talabira II mine (for which CBI filed the FIR) was made in 1996 by erstwhile Indian Aluminium, the Canadian aluminium major ALCAN’s Indian subsidiary. In 2000 INDAL was acquired by the Birla company, which subsequently pursued the matter. Hindalco made several representations to the government but only through ‘formal channels’.
‘To imply that our chairman, Kumar Mangalam Birla, managed to overturn the decision of the screening committee is preposterous. The truth of the matter is that the Talabira II and III mines together have been finally allotted jointly to Mahanadi Coal Fields and Neyveli Lignite, both public sector undertakings, with Hindalco having only a 15 per cent stake in the joint venture,’ said the Birla CEO.
Meanwhile, ex-coal secretary Parakh has made an explosive on-camera statement saying the prime minister, who headed the department, had approved the allocation. Did CBI name Parakh and Birla to shield the PM? The coal block scandal is becoming increasingly intriguing. By naming the top bureaucrat and the businessman, could CBI be playing a double game? What if CBI fails to get Birla convicted in this case? Who pays for the damage to his reputation and massive financial losses his shareholders suffered due to CBI’s FIR and leakage of the information that may even lead to his arrest and interrogation at certain stage? The nation demands answers from CBI and the government. IPA