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Parakh Accuses CBI of 'Witch Hunt' Against Him in Book

Former Coal Secretary P C Parakh, against whom the CBI has registered a case for allegedly favoring Hindalco in coal block at Odisha, has accused CBI Director Ranjit Sinha of having acted against him to impress the Supreme Court and wondered why he chose not to mention Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the conspiracy because he had taken the decision in the matter.

At the same time to be fair to the Prime Minister, he said at no time the PMO made recommendation or exerted pressure in favor of any party.

In his book 'Crusader or Conspirator? Coalgate and Other Truths', which will be released tomorrow, Parakh has said the CBI was indulging in "witch hunting" and has brought out the problems faced by bureaucrats while serving the ministers and politicians at large and accused Sinha of having acted without "proper understanding" of the facts, rules and laws.

"Perhaps to impress the Supreme Court and the people at large of your new found freedom from the cage," Parakh has remarked in his book hinting towards the observation made by the apex court when it had termed the CBI as "caged parrot".

Reacting to the personal attack, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha told PTI that "we can reply to all the accusations point by point but since the case is being monitored by the Supreme Court, I will not say anything."

He termed the book as a "typical babu book where the author has indulged in self-glorification".

In his book, the former IAS officer from Andhra Pradesh, questioned the decision of CBI to registered a case against him and Kumarmanglam Birla for alleged conspiracy in handling over the Talabira-II coal block to Hindalco and not registering a case against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was incharge of the coal ministry.

"If Mr Sinha was convinced that the Hindalco allocation was a conspiracy and had he the courage of conviction, he ought to have named the Prime Minister in the conspiracy," Parakh said.

Though, Parakh, 68, writes that it was his decision to bring in Hindalco for Talabira coal project and that there was no pressure exerted on him by the PMO in this case, he, however, raised nine questions in his book, published by Manas Publications, asking why were not the files of PMO scrutinized before naming him in the FIR.

"If the CBI smelled conspiracy and corruption, why did it not name the Prime Minister in the FIR?" he asked and asserted that any Secretary only recommends to the Minister and the final decision has to be taken by the political executive.

The author said, "However, it must be said to the credit of the Prime Minister that at no time did the PMO make recommendations or exert pressure in favor of any party. Even in the case of Hindaclo, where the CBI has decided to register an FIR, the request was only to re-examine the case on merit."

About his meeting with Birla, Parakh asked whether a law existed which prevented a civil servant to meet a citizen (Birla) who was feeling aggrieved over the government decision not to allocate coal block.

"Does re-examining a matter by a civil servant, based on the representation of an aggrieved party, by itself amounts to conspiracy and corruption? Where was abuse of power in this case?" Parakh, who retired in December 2005, asked.

He wondered where did the CBI get the information that Talabira II was reserved for allocation to public sector companies. "If it was reserved for the public sector only, how could Hindalco apply for it," he said.

Terming CBI as an organization which did not have any expertise to handle such cases, Parakh said, "If the allocation of Talabira-II to Hindalco was undue favor, why were all the 200 coal blocks allocated to private companies not considered undue favor?"

The author said that CBI is not equipped to find the truth. "Its expertise lies in fixing and unfixing people. CBI is almost totally staffed with police officers who have little or no exposure to policy formulation and implementation."

The former coal secretary said that when he was asked to join investigation during the Preliminary Enquiry stage, he had expected the CBI Director or an officer one or two ranks below him to interact with him. "Certainly not inspectors of police who do not understand difference between a coal block and a coal mine."

The basic argument of the CBI was that why the decision of the screening committee changed and whether there was any pressure from the PMO.

"I categorically stated there was no pressure from the PMO, and the case was considered entirely on merit. I said I take the full responsibility for what I recommended. I thought the CBI has understood the logic of this decision," Parakh said.

"I was surprised at the CBI's naiveté when they registered an FIR in this case and a team of dozen officer landed at my door to search my flat eight years after I had retired," he said, adding, the approach of the CBI was totally faulty.

"I can say without hesitation that the CBI is either outright incompetent or is playing a deeper game which I do not understand," Parakh claimed and expressed wonder of the CBI to question Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik for writing a recommendation letter favoring Hindalco.

"What can be more absurd than the CBI questioning the bonafides of Mr Naveen Patnaik, merely because he made a recommendation in favor of Hindalco? If a Chief Minister is not to canvass for projects he thinks would generate employment and revenue for his state, what is he Chief Minister for?" he asked.

The former coal secretary feared that the coalgate may also end in a whimper like Bofors with actual culprits responsible for the delay in the introduction of a transparent system and those who benefited from the delay could go "scot free".

Talking about the autonomy claims made by the CBI, Parakh warned that "no amount of statutory safeguards can make the CBI more autonomous as long as the persons heading it have a different agenda and are unwilling to exercise their autonomy.

"Blanket authority to the CBI to initiate criminal action without supervision and accountability would be remedy far worse than the disease".

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