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‘I am not above law, ready to face CBI’

Singh’s statement on Thursday evening comes days after the prime minister’s office defended the government’s decision to allocate two coal blocks in Odisha to a firm owned by industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla.

The industrialist and the government’s former coal secretary PC Parakh have been accused by the CBI of criminal conspiracy in the deal. CBI sources said the move came after filing of status report before the Supreme Court where the agency has informed the apex court about the latest case registered by it against Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and PC Parakh.

The CBI has not named the prime minister in its First Information Report,  but has said the contract was endorsed by ‘the competent authority’ which is being interpreted as a reference to Manmohan Singh since he held direct charge of the coal ministry at the time. Singh said earlier this week that the deal was ‘entirely appropriate’. The opposition has reissued its demand for his resignation over this case and the larger coal scandal. The national auditor said in 2012 that the lack of a transparent bidding process for mining rights cost the country Rs 1.86 lakh crores.

The CBI has requested the prime minister’s office to hand over all documents relevant to Birla’s coal block deal. Sources in the agency said once they have review the files, they will decide whether Singh needs to be questioned. The CBI has also mentioned about the ‘competent authority’ in the FIR which the PMO had explained in its statement is the prime minister who was holding the charge as coal minister in 2005 when the decision was taken.

It may be noted that after being named in the CBI FIR, Parakh said if he is guilty of making a recommendation to allocate the block to Hindalco, the PM was an equal ‘conspirator’ in the case.

‘There is KM Birla who made the representation, he is one conspirator. I, who examined the case and made a recommendation, I can be another conspirator and the prime minister, who as the coal minister, took the final decision, is the third conspirator,’ Parakh had said on 16 October.
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