The PMO told the CBI that it is ready to provide any other information, if required, about the allocation of Talabira coal block made in 2005. The Prime Minister, who has been under opposition attack over the allocation to Hindalco promoted by Kumar Mangalam Birla, has defended the decision as "entirely appropriate" and based on merits of the case presented to him.
Controversy erupted over the allocation after CBI registered an FIR against Birla and former coal secretary PC Parakh last week. Parakh has said if he is accused of conspiracy, then the Prime Minister also should be made an accused as he had approved the revised decision, prompting the BJP to demand his resignation. The Prime Minister on Thursday said he was ready to face CBI in the matter as he has nothing to hide. "I am not above the law of the land," he said.
If there is anything the CBI or, for that matter anybody, wants to ask me, I have nothing to hide," he told reporters while returning from his two-nation tour of Russia and China. While defending the decision, the PMO last week issued a statement acknowledging that the final decision of October 1, 2005 "differed" from the earlier recommendation of the screening committee.
It had released the sequence of events which suggested that the norms set by the Prime Minister were relaxed in view of representations made by Birla and Odisha chief minister Naveen Patnaik.
'Gracious of PM to say decision was right'
Meanwhile, former coal secretary PC Parakh, named as accused in CBI FIR related to coal block allocation to Hindalco, said CBI had failed to appreciate issues involved in the case even as he appreciated the Prime Minister for asserting that the decision was right.
He said the CBI contention that Kumar Mangalam Birla, chairman of Aditya Birla Group, met the Prime Minister and him and after that decision was reversed does not show slightest element of criminality.
Parakh said CBI has not been able to appreciate the issues involved in this particular decision.
"It was very gracious on the part of the Prime Minister to say yes the decision was right and if CBI has anything to ask they are free to ask," he told reporters.
CBI has alleged that Birla met Parakh during July, 2005, requesting allocation of the block.
"Pursuant to these letters and the meeting between Parakh and Birla, the former abused his official position and recommended the allocation of Talabira II along with Talabira III to Hindalco Industries without any valid basis or change in circumstances and with the sole intention to show undue favours," it alleged.
Rebutting the allegations, a statement from the PMO indicated that the "competent authority" referred to in the FIR was Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who had been holding charge of coal ministry in the said period.
It said that the Prime Minister was satisfied that the final decision taken in this regard had been "entirely appropriate" and based on the merits of the case placed before him.
"The final decision differed from the earlier recommendation of the screening committee, and this was done following a representation received in the PMO from one of the parties," the statement had said.