As industry voiced concern over the CBI naming industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla in a case, Oil Minister M Veerappa Moily on Friday said investigating agencies and the judiciary must ensure that India does not become like Russia, where investors are not prepared to go and billionaires are put behind bars.
Moily said India is not under "Aurangzeb's rule" but under rule of law, where action has to be taken based on cogent evidence, not just on mere perception.
"I am not here to give a value judgement on that, but at the same time I think the time has come to ensure that whatever we do should be in accordance with strict rule of law. And ultimately, on mere perception you cannot proceed against anybody unless there is cogent evidence to proceed with," he said.
Moily was replying to a question about the CBI naming Hindalco Industries Chairman Birla in an FIR against the aluminium and copper maker as part of its probe into alleged irregularities in the allotment of coal-mining licenses.
Moily said the CBI has proceeded in the matter on certain lines, which, if based on evidence, "nobody can question" but if not, then "we should be careful." "Because ultimately India cannot become just like Russia, where investors are not prepared to go and billionaires are put behind the bars. That should not happen here," he said.
The job of ensuring that India does not become like Russia rests not just with the government but also with the judiciary and the CBI, he said.
"When rule of law is concerned it applies to government, it applies to Supreme Court, it applies to everybody. If all of us work in accordance with rule of law, if rule of law is implemented, we are all safe, investors are safe, people will be safe," he said.”
A joint venture company of Hindalco had received mining licenses for two coal blocks in Odisha in 2005. The CBI on Tuesday said it plans to probe whether the company and its chairman were involved in a criminal conspiracy and irregularities.
Birla is the most prominent businessman to be named in the probe by CBI, which has triggered sharp reactions from the industry. With an estimated wealth of $7.9 billion, Birla was ranked 150 on the Forbes list of world billionaires.