Breaking its silence, the Prime Minister's Office today rejected any criminality in the controversial allocation of coal block to Hindalco, saying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had approved it on the basis of "merits" of the case placed before him.
The PMO, while making it clear that Singh was the 'competent authority' who cleared the proposal mooted by the Coal Ministry in 2005, underlined that the allocation to a joint venture, including Hindalco, was not done at the cost of PSU Neyveli Lignite Corporation.
It released details of the sequence of events leading to Singh's approval on October 1,2005 and said "the Prime Minister is satisfied that the final decision taken in this regard was entirely appropriate and based on the merits of the case placed before him".
While defending the decision, the PMO referred to Singh's statements earlier that the government has nothing to hide and it will fully cooperate with CBI which is probing the case.
The allocation of Talabira coal block in Odisha is in the eye of a storm with CBI booking Aditya Birla Group Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla and former Coal Secretary P C Parakh. Parakh has said if he was accused of conspiracy, then the Prime Minister also should be made an accused as he had approved the revised decision.
The PMO acknowledged that the final decision on the allocation "differed" from the earlier recommendation of the Screening Committee. "This was done following a representation received in the Prime Minister's Office from one of the parties, which was referred to the Ministry of Coal," the PMO said in a statement.
The PMO said CBI is free to investigate the case as it may have got hold of some documents post-allocation.