The Prime Minister’s Office on Saturday defended the allocation of Talabira II and III coal blocks in Orissa in 2005 to Hindalco Industries, along with Neyveli Lignite Corporation and Mahanadi Coalfields.
A PMO statement said the allocation was done as per merits. The statement is significant because, at that time, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held the coal portfolio.
Earlier this week, the CBI filed an FIR against Hindalco chairman KM Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh, alleging criminal conspiracy in allocating the block to Hindalco. The CBI said Parakh overturned an earlier decision of the screening committee after Birla met him. It said the coal block was reserved for PSUs.
Defending his role, Parakh had said if the CBI was probing his and Birla’s role, it should also investigate the PM as accused number one as he cleared the decision. Parakh said while Birla made a representation and he recommended the same, the PM, then as coal minister, finally cleared it. Hindalco Industries has said that it did not indulge in any criminality and followed all government rules.
The PMO statement said that the PM had approved it on the basis of ‘merits’ of the case. The statement said Singh was the ‘competent authority’ who cleared the proposal, adding that that the allocation to a JV, including Hindalco, was not done at the cost of PSU Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
It released details of the sequence of events leading to Singh’s approval on October 1, 2005, and said “the PM is satisfied that the final decision was entirely appropriate and based on merits of the case placed before him”.