New Delhi: Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta today told a special court that then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given the “final approval” for allocation of coal block to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL), a charge refuted by the CBI which said the then premier was “kept in the dark”. In his arguments, Gupta claimed he had “no dominion” over the natural resource and Singh, who was also holding the portfolio of the Coal Minister at that time, had given the final approval for the allocation of the coal block.

“Accused (Gupta) was only Coal Secretary and heading the screening committee, which was only a recommending body, and thus had no dominion over the natural resources of the country as the final approval was made by the Minister of Coal (Singh),” his counsel B S Mathur told Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar. The counsel was advancing arguments on framing of charges in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to KSSPL.

However, the CBI countered Gupta’s arguments contending that “the Coal Minister/Prime Minister was totally kept in the dark” and alleged that it was the then Coal Secretary who had “misled” the senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) — T K A Nair and Vini Mahajan. While Nair was the then principal secretary to the Prime Minister, Mahajan was the then director in PMO. “Gupta misled the PMO officials. He (Gupta) told T K A Nair and Vini Mahajan that everything was done as per merits of the companies,” senior public prosecutor V K Sharma said. The court concluded the hearing on arguments on framing of charges and fixed the matter for September 16 saying it would seek clarifications, if any, from the CBI as well as the accused.

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