Coal Scam: SC says special bench will hear Manmohan plea

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The Supreme Court on Wednesday made it clear that the appeal of former prime minister Manmohan Singh, challenging the trial court order summoning him as an accused in a coal scam case, would be heard by a special bench that is seized with such cases.

(Also read: Coal scam: Former minister of state for coal wants Manmohan Singh to be summoned)

The observation was made by a bench headed by Chief Justice HL Dattu when senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for Singh, sought an early hearing of the appeal filed by former Prime Minister. “This is the matter which is not entirely related to the coal allocation case,” Sibal said.

The bench said, “We will refer this to the coal bench and you go before that bench and convince them that this is not a coal matter.”

The bench, also comprising justice Arun Mishra, said that this matter will be listed next week.

(Also read: No evidence against Manmohan Singh in coal scam: CBI)

Minutes after the development, senior advocate Harish Salve appearing for Hindalco, mentioned the plea before the bench and sought the hearing after Diwali vacation. The plea was resisted by Sibal.

“These all are that matter. They should be heard together,” Salve said.

The submissions of Salve were supported by another senior advocate KK Venugopal who appeared for former minister of state for coal Santosh Bagrodia, also an accused in another coal scam case.

The bench, which tentatively agreed with Salve’s plea and fixed the matters for hearing on 17 November, later asked the lawyers to arrive at a consensus with regard to the date of hearing and then mention it together before the bench.

Earlier, the Supreme Court had ordered deletion from its list of business of September 21 the batch of appeals filed by Singh and others. The apex court had on April one stayed the trial court order summoning former PM as accused in a coal block allocation case and the proceedings before it.

The relief was also extended to Hindalco Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, whose company was granted Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005, former Coal Secretary P C Parakh, two Hindalco officials Shubhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya and the company itself. While staying trial court’s order, the apex court had said that the consequential proceedings arising out of the summoning order shall also remain stayed.

The Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar had on March 11 rejected the CBI’s closure report and summoned Singh and the other five as accused. While issuing the summons, the trial court had said that prima facie it was clear that the criminal conspiracy which was initially conceived by Birla, Hindalco and its two officials, was carried out further “by roping in Parakh, and thereafter the then Minister of Coal, Manmohan Singh”.

It had said that Singh’s approval to allocate coal block to Hindalco “prima facie facilitated windfall profits” to the private firm resulting in loss to state-owned PSU Neyveli Lignite Corporation Ltd.

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