Planning Commission Deputy Chairman Montek Singh Ahluwalia has said the Central Bureau of Investigation got interested in the allocation of the Talabira-II coal mine to Hindalco because of the connection with the Prime Minister’s Office. “Unlike the other cases the involvement of this office in the decisions made a difference,” he told The Indian Express.
But the deputy chairman said Manmohan Singh had done the right thing in the allocation of the mines based on the available records and so there cannot be any charge of conspiracy in the matter.
In an interaction with this newspaper, Ahluwalia said it must also be recognised by the press that the investigating agency had only filed an FIR which is not the same as a charge sheet.
On Saturday the Prime Minister’s Office had issued a detailed statement explaining how Singh decided to change the mining rights for Talabira from a two company public sector joint venture to bring in private sector Hindalco as a 15 per cent equity holder.
It was in response to the CBI FIR which had named Aditya Birla group chief Kumar Mangalam Birla whose group company is Hindalco and former coal secretary PC Parakh for a conspiracy to hurt the state run mines Mahanadi Coalfields and Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
The deputy chairman who is slated to address investors in Canada soon said, “I have got representations from industry leaders saying how the CBI could have filed the FIR unless they are totally sure. In any investigation it is impossible for an agency to be absolutely sure unless they process the evidence.”
But while defending CBI’s right to investigate allegations of malafide, he said those should not harm the reputation of anyone and the person should be treated as innocent till proven guilty.
Ahluwalia said he was worried by the extension of the ambit of the Prevention of Corruption Act where a public servant can be hauled up for even for a change of decision.
He acknowledged that bureaucrats have developed genuine apprehensions that they may get questioned even after many years of a decision despite no evidence of bribe. “The danger is certainly there,” he said.
Over the past few days several industrialists have come out in support of KM Birla including industry chambers Ficci and CII.