India: Former PM Seeks Supreme Court Exemption

By Altaf Ahmad

2015-03-25
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150325-IN-parakh-620 P.C. Parakh, India's former coal secretary, holds up a copy of his book during a book launch in New Delhi, April 14, 2014.
AFP

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh petitioned India’s Supreme Court Wednesday, asking it to exempt him from having to respond to a summons that he appear in court on April 8 as a defendant in a coal blocks allocation scam.

“There was nothing on record to establish that Dr. Singh has any offense,” the petition said of the court order, issued March 11 by Special Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Judge Bharat Parashar, according to media reports.

Singh likely will be granted an exemption because he is expected to cooperate with the prosecution, Sushant Kumar Thakur, a criminal lawyer of the Delhi High Court, told BenarNews.

“Since the CBI knows the credentials of an individual like Dr. Singh, I don’t think the agency will strongly oppose his plea in the top court. The leading investigating agency may have realized that, under no circumstances, would the former PM leave the country without [notifying] the court,” he added.

Besides Singh, the CBI court summoned five others, including Hindalco Industries Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P.C. Parakh.

The case, dating to 2005, revolves around the allocation of the Talabira coal blocks in the state of Odisha to Hindalco, a company in the Birla group.

Singh, who was prime minister at the time, is accused of selling mining licenses cheaply to private companies, and causing huge losses to the government exchequer. The scandal has been dubbed “Coal-Gate” in India.

Officials with Congress, Singh’s party, allege that the top investigating agency acted at the behest of the now-ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), in a bid to mar Singh’s “clean image.”

“The BJP government is trying to implicate him in the case, but Congress has full faith in the judiciary, and I am confident Dr. Singh will not be linked to the corruption case,” All India Congress Committee (AICC) Secretary Shakeel Ahmad told BenarNews.

Senior Congress leaders, including its President Sonia Gandhi, walked to Singh’s residence on March 12, in protest against the court order and to express solidarity with him.

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