Did ex-PM Manmohan Singh forgo duties as coal minister? Deputy approved coal block allocation, says probe report
Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was so keen to be kept at arm's length from anything unsavoury either in the 2G or the coal block allocation scam, that he chose to depute his job as coal minister to his deputy TKA Nair. These are some of the many shocking facts that have been highlighted in the ML Sharma Committee report submitted to the Supreme Court earlier this year. India Today has accessed details of the report.
One coal block allocated to then Member of Parliament, Vijay Darda, was actually allocated by Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, TKA Nair. "The file was not put up to the Prime Minister and was cleared by TKA Nair, the then Principal Secretary to PM and the Ministry of Coal was informed accordingly", says the report. In government parlance, this is being considered as complete violation of the powers of the Executive.
Manmohan Singh was coal minister when this coal block was allocated. Top CBI officials say the fact that coal blocks were being allocated by the Prime Minister's PS is now being investigated afresh. "The files have been examined and it does appear that the coal block was allocated to the AMR group, not by the Prime Minister, but by an officer in the PMO. The file was not even signed on behalf of the PM. These are some of the many issues that are now being looked at afresh."
A non-committal TKA Nair told India Today, "The factual position is available on the relevant files which may be available with the PMO or the Ministry of Coal". Emails and calls to Mr Manmohan Singh have gone unanswered.
The ML Sharma committee was set up by the Supreme Court to probe former CBI Chief Ranjit Sinha and whether visitors to his residence actually influenced investigations by the CBI. The visitor's entry register at the CBI chief's residence lists multiple entries by a number of entities who were being investigated by the CBI. The Supreme Court had asked ex-special director of the CBI ML Sharma to probe whether these visitors influenced the coal scam probe.
The AMR case essentially pertains to a fraudulent claim by the group that it was a part of the Lokmat group with a combined networth of Rs 1821 crore. It also said it had no coal blocks in its application to the coal ministry whereas the truth is it already had five blocks previously allocated. Despite these discrepancies being highlighted by junior officials of the ministry, then secretary coal HC Gupta (first bureaucrat to be indicted in the case) chose to go by the claims of the AMR group with some substantial nudging by then MoS coal Santosh Bagrodia.
Santosh Bagrodia visited Ranjit SInha's residence 46 times and Vijay Darda visited Sinha's house thrice and his son 12 times coincidentally at the time Sinha was taking a call on closing the cases against the Dardas and Bagrodia. "The closure reports filed by the CBI were not accepted by the Special Judge," the report says.