As murky as it gets

Ranabir Ray Choudhury | Updated on March 12, 2018

P.C. Parakh sets cat among the pigeons

The CBI must take its probe into the coal case to a logical conclusion, PM factor or no.

That the business world has been shaken up by the aspersions the CBI has cast on the integrity of Kumar Mangalam Birla when it filed its fourteenth FIR in the Coalgate case on October 15 is an established fact.

Rocking the boat

But P.C. Parakh, the then Union Coal Secretary (since superannuated), who too was named in the FIR along with Kumar Mangalam Birla has rocked the boat severely with the stunning statement that if the CBI thought that the allocation of the Talabira coal block to Hindalco “was a conspiracy, then they should have made the Prime Minister, who approved the allocation, as accused No. 1”.

Four days later the Prime Minister’s Office cleared the air by declaring that the Prime Minister himself had, indeed, cleared the participation of Hindalco in the allocation of the coal block concerned, thereby altering an earlier allocation in which the Birla company did not figure, the decision being “entirely appropriate and based on merits of the case placed before him”.

No dropping of probe

The crucial fallout of the proceedings will be the future course of action of the CBI regarding the FIR in which the persons named have been accused of “criminal conspiracy, criminal misconduct and misuse of official position under Section 120B of the IPC and relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act”. A senior CBI source has been quoted as saying that “we are open to the idea of closing the investigation”.

Now this is the last thing that should be done because such action would have the immediate effect of underscoring the fact that the CBI cannot stand on its own feet, which will severely affect the agency’s standing as an independent body which is already under threat. The core of the issue here is that just because the PMO has acknowledged the Prime Minister’s involvement in the coal block allocation, the legality or otherwise of the intervention cannot be made non-issues.

If established guidelines have been violated – and even if the “violations” have been perpetrated by none other than the Prime Minister himself in the best interest of the nation – the FIR must be probed in detail and the legality or otherwise of the charges framed be pronounced upon by the Supreme Court. There is simply no alternative to due process being maintained.

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Published on October 25, 2013
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