New Delhi: A special court today refused to summon former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh as an accused in a coal scam case, observing that sufficient evidence was not there to call him and held ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s plea in this regard as “devoid of any merits”.
Dismissing Koda’s plea in which he had sought summoning of Singh and two others as additional accused in the case, the court said that averments made in the application were “self contradictory in nature”. Referring to a Supreme Court verdict in which apex court had discussed the role and position of the Prime Minsiter, the court said that seeking summoning of Singh as PM has to be seen from a completely different yard stick. “Thus, I am of the considered opinion that seeking summoning of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister has to be seen from a completely different yard stick, then seeking his summoning as a Minister,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.
“Though one may argue that summoning of Dr Mammohan Singh as Minister of Coal should be considered but as already mentioned by me that at this stage of the matter I do not find sufficient evidence warranting his summoning as an accused in the present case,” the judge said in his 23-page order. “Accordingly, the present application being devoid of any merits is hereby dismissed,” the court said. It, however, clarified that if during the course of trial, sufficient evidence warranting summoning of any other public servant or private person comes on record “then the law will certainly take its own course.”
Besides Singh, Koda had sought summoning of then officials of Jharkhand Government Anand Swaroop, then Secretary (Energy) and Jai Shankar Tiwari, then Secretary (Mines and Geology), as additional accused in the case. Regarding Swaroop and Tiwari, the court said it did not find any prima facie case to summon them as accused.
“…I may state at the threshold itself that in the facts and circumstances of the present case, this court does not find any prima facie case to summon Dr Manmohan Singh…Jai Shankar Tiwari and Anand Swaroop as accused,” the judge said.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block to Naveen Jindal group firms — Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd (GSIPL). In its order, the court said that it was not entering into a detailed analysis of the facts and circumstances of the case as it might prejudice the other accused who have been summoned earlier. “At this stage, I may reiterate that in view of the note of caution expressed by other accused persons that the present order should not affect their rights, it will be a difficult proposition for this court to not make any reference to the role played by various accused persons who already stands summoned by this court, while considering the role played by the three proposed accused persons,” it noted.
“Any discussion of the facts and circumstances of the present case is bound to have some effect on the role played by the other accused persons,” the court said. It further said that while taking cognizance of various offences against the chargesheeted accused persons in its May 6, 2015 order, it had considered the facts and circumstances of the case. “….I have considered them in great detail but any further discussion now will entail venturing into an arena where the role played by various accused persons who already stands summoned will have to be discussed and the same might prejudice them at the stage of charge itself,” the judge said.
The court also noted that for the reasons best known to the counsel appearing for Koda, his application was completely silent as to under which section of law it was moved. “Apart from the aforesaid inherent contradiction in the application qua the stage at which the contention of counsel for accused/applicant is to be considered and what degree of application of judicial mind is required, it will be also worthwhile to mention that the present application seeks summoning of Dr Manmohan Singh as Prime Minister and not as Minister of Coal,” it said.
Terming the submissions made in Koda’s application as self-contradictory in nature, the court said, “On the one hand, it has been alleged not only in the application itself but also during the course of arguments that the Government of Jharkhand was merely a recommending authority and as the final approval was given by Prime Minister/Minister of Coal so Dr. Manmohan Singh was liable to be summoned as an accused.”
“However, at the same time, the two officers of Government of Jharkhand who were part of a sub-group to make only recommendation to the Government of Jharkhand were sought to be summoned for having made the recommendation,” it said. The court has now fixed the case for commencement of arguments on framing on charges from November 2. The court had on September 28 reserved the order on Koda’s plea after CBI had opposed it saying that there was no evidence which even prima facie suggests that Singh was part of any conspiracy in allocation of a coal block to Naveen Jindal Group firms.
CBI had argued that records do not reflect that Singh, who held the Coal Portfolio at that time, had any complicity with any accused in any manner. Koda had alleged that it cannot be said that the then PM was not aware of all the facts and if file of the matter was said to be routed through then Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao, who is an accused, can it not be said that Singh was one of the conspirators. Besides Koda and Rao, CBI had chargesheeted industrialist Naveen Jindal, former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and 11 others, including five firms, in the case.
Out of these accused, only Rao had supported Koda’s plea. The court had summoned these 15 as accused saying that prima facie offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with sections 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating) of IPC read with sections 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct by a public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act were made out against them.