Three days after the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) came out with a detailed explanation for the allocation of coal block to Hindalco Industries, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has written to the PMO, seeking the details of relevant files and the letter from Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, which backed the company’s case.
Top CBI officers probing the case against Hindalco Industries and Aditya Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla said the agency wanted to examine the “public interest” which Patnaik referred to in his 2005 letter to the Prime Minister, following which the coal ministry reversed its original decision on the allocation.
CBI sources said they would also like to examine whether the then coal secretary P C Parakh — whom the agency has named in an FIR — had, in his communication with the PMO, justified his earlier decision of not allocating the block to Hindalco Industries, and whether any explanation for reversing the decision was put in the files.
In its clarification, the PMO said, “...The ownership ratio in the joint venture was not in congruence with the guidelines approved by PM on 09.06.2005 which required this ratio to be in proportion to the assessed requirement of coal of each allocate. As per these guidelines, the NLC: Hindalco ratio in their 30 per cent share should be 22.5:7.5 and not 15:15 as was proposed.”
The sources said CBI had sought these guidelines that the PM approved in 2005.
The agency plans to also examine the circumstances under which the decision to change the ratio in favour of Hindalco Industries was taken.
The CBI FIR has alleged that the decision was reversed after Birla met Parakh.
The sources said CBI would like to examine the reason why the government preferred a private company over a public sector undertaking (Neyveli Lignite Corporation), due to which, according to the FIR, “the proposed power project of NLC which was approved by the Ministry of Power could not take off as planned”.
Minister of State in the PMO V Narayanasamy said on Tuesday, “We have nothing to hide and have already given thousands of documents to the agency.”
On the “competent authority” mentioned in the FIR, a senior CBI officer said, “The ‘competent authority’ is always an individual in his capacity as minister or secretary and not a ministry or department.” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was then in charge of the coal ministry.
A CBI official said the procedure described by