File pic: Ex-Coal Secretary PC Parakh, named in CBI’s FIR in coal scam
The CBI says that the Prime Minister’s Office has not been cleared yet in the probe of how underpriced coal licenses were given away without a transparent bidding process. In a case registered this week, the agency says two coal blocks in Odisha were illicitly granted in 2005 by former Coal Secretary PC Parakh to Hindalco, an aluminium-making company owned by top industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla. The agency says that Mr Parakh’s decision was endorsed by “the competent authority,” which is being interpreted by some as a reference to the Prime Minister, who held direct charge of the Coal Ministry at the time. (read: PM can’t be kept out of CBI probe, says Arun Jaitley)
Mr Parakh has been much more direct, specifically naming the PM, and arguing that as Coal Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh took the final decision on the allotments. He has asked the CBI to explain why the PM has not been named as an alleged co-conspirator.
The CBI says that during initial rounds of questioning, Mr Parakh was not able to offer a satisfactory explanation for his actions, and that he did not implicate the Prime Minister.
On Tuesday, the CBI filed a First Information Report or FIR – the first step towards formal charges – that accused Mr Parakh of conspiring with Mr Birla to land two coal blocks in Odisha through “undue favours.” Both Mr Birla and Mr Parakh have denied the charges. (read: what CBI says in its FIR)
Mr Parakh has said to NDTV this week that Hindalco and a state-run Nevyveli Lignite Corporation had both applied for the two coal blocks in Odisha. He says that the screening committee headed by him decided the state-run company should get preference though both firms were “equally eligible.” Mr Parakh says that after meeting with Mr Birla, he agreed that the industrialist’s firm, as the first applicant, deserved the coal blocks, and that the PM approved of his decision.