Industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla allegedly played an active role by tapping his political and bureaucratic channels for allocation of Talabira-II coal block in favour of his firm M/s Hindalco, a special court said while summoning him as an accused in a coal scam case.
Various high-ranking officials of Aditya Birla Group "left no stone unturned" to secure the coal block, the court said while holding that "criminal conspiracy" was prima facie initially conceived by Hindalco officials Shubhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya.
To tap bureaucratic and political channels, Birla also joined in and roped in former Coal Secretary P C Parakh and the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh who was holding the coal portfolio, it said.
The court said that from the nature of intra-group correspondence which was exchanged between Shubhendu Amitabh, Group Executive President of Aditya Birla Management Corporation Pvt Ltd (ABMPCL), and D Bhattacharya, MD of M/s Hindalco, it is clear that the initial acts of criminal conspiracy off-shooted from them.
"Thereafter in order to tap the bureaucratic and political channels, Kumar Mangalam Birla, who was the Chairman of Aditya Birla Group of which M/s Hindalco was a group company, also joined.
"Kumar Mangalam Birla being the Chairman of a leading industrial house of the country thus along with D Bhattacharya and Shubhendu Amitabh started exercising his influence over the political and bureaucratic channels in order to secure allocation of Talabira-II coal block in favour of Hindalco," Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said while deliberating on the alleged well-chalked out plan of the group.
The judge summoned Birla as one of the accused in the case keeping in view the recent Supreme Court judgement by which summons issued against Bharti Cellular CMD Sunil Bharti Mittal as accused was quashed in the additional spectrum case.
The apex court had observed that a person ought not to be dragged on ground of vicarious liability merely because a complaint has been filed against him.
"I am, however, of the considered opinion that the facts of the present case cannot be put at par with the said case (Sunil Bharti Mittal) as in the present case Kumar Mangalam
Birla played an active role by tapping his bureaucratic and political channels in order to secure allocation of Talabira-II, coal block in favour of M/s Hindalco," the judge said.
The judge said, "I may once again reiterate that even as regard him being the Chairman of Aditya Birla Group, I am fully conscious of the observations made by the Supreme court in the case Sunil Bharti Mittal (Supra)".
The court, taking into account the nature of communication undertaken between various officers of Aditya Birla Group regarding rejection of the claim of Hindalco for allocation of Talabira-II coal block in Odisha, said it is found that a "concerted effort" was made at all levels in the group to somehow tap all their resources, in bureaucratic or political circle, to procure allotment of the block.
It said the correspondence between the various officers of Aditya Birla Group and vis-a-vis the subsequent action taken by them in pursuing their case, showed it was clear that they "left no stone unturned" in their efforts to secure allotment of the coal block in favour of M/s Hindalco.
The court said a plan was chalked out to tap bureaucratic and political channels and Birla made a written request to Prime Minister/Coal Minister Manmohan Singh in a letter on May 7, 2005, seeking allocation of Talabira-II coal block in favour of M/s Hindalco and providing a ground to reopen the matter.
"However when things still did not move to their satisfaction then Birla alongwith his officers also met P C Parakh, Secretary (Coal) and Dasari Narayan Rao, Minister of State (Coal & Mines)," it said.
Birla again met Singh and gave him another identical letter on June 17, 2005, seeking allocation of Talabira-II coal block in favour of his firm, it said.