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Coalgate: Parakh Seeks New Date for Appearance

CBI has summoned former Coal Secretary P C Parakh, named as an accused for allegedly abusing his official position to grant a coal block to Hindalco, a company of Aditya Birla Group, to appear before it on April 25 but the former bureaucrat expressed inability to do so owing to family commitments.

"I have asked CBI to give any date after May 1," Parakh, 69, who retired as Coal Secretary in 2005, told PTI over phone from his Hyderabad residence.

In his book released recently, Parakh has been critical of CBI's action, especially its Director Ranjit Sinha, of registering a case against him and questioned the decision- making of the agency Chief in not naming Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused as the Coal Ministry was under Singh's charge directly when Talabira-II coal block in Odhisa was given to Hindalco.

"My questioning has nothing to do with my book. It's a routine questioning as per the law," Parakh said.

CBI had last year registered a case against Parakh, Birla, besides unnamed officials of Hindalco and the Coal Ministry.

The agency alleged that during 2005, these persons had entered into a criminal conspiracy and the then public servant (Parakh) abused his position and showed undue favour to the Odisha-based industry in allocation of Talabira II and Talabira III coal blocks along with the PSU.

According to the FIR, Neyveli Lignite Limited was to be given Talabira II block but Parakh allegedly favoured Hindalco and allowed it to share the block with Neyveli leading to notional loss to the exchequer.

The move to question Parakh comes after former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao and the Prime Minister's Advisor T K A Nair were questioned by CBI.

Rao was questioned by CBI for six hours yesterday while the agency had sent a questionnaire to Nair earlier last month about the inclusion of Hindalco.

CBI has alleged Parakh, after meeting with Birla, had changed the decision of Screening Committee, which had alloted the Talabira-II coal block to Public Sector Undertaking (PSU) Neyveli Lignite Limited.

The PMO had also forwarded a representation sent by Birla Group chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla requesting reconsideration of the decision.

Giving a clean chit to the PMO as well as the Prime Minister, Parakh had said in his book that no pressure had been applied on him and the decision was taken in the better interest of the nation.

He had denied any quid pro quo as alleged by CBI in its FIR about his meeting with Birla.

CBI has also completed examining top executives of the Rs 2.4 lakh crore Birla company in connection with the allocation, the sources said, adding, however, no decision to summon the group's chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla has been taken so far.

Registration of a case against Birla and Parakh was criticised by India Inc and former bureaucrats. However, CBI said a decision on filing a closure report or a charge sheet will be taken by it after completing the investigations in the case.

Hindalco has denied allegations of irregularities. "We wish to state unambiguously that we have followed every process required for allocation of coal completely, as stipulated by the government policy," it had stated.

The agency could not reach exact quantum of loss as the coal block is still not operational. The blocks were allocated for power production during a meeting of the Screening Committee of the Coal Ministry, the sources said and claimed the coal allocation was meant for PSUs only.

Emerging story. Watch this space for updates as more details come in
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