New Delhi(web team): In a relief to former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Supreme Court on Wednesday stayed the trial court order summoning him as accused in a case pertaining to grant of Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005 to Aditya Birla group company Hindalco.
The stay, which also applied to Hindalco Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, former Coal Secretary P C Parakh and three others, came after senior counsel Kapil Sibal questioned the legality of the summons to the former Prime Minister citing lack of sanction as required under the CrPC and contended that allocation of a coal block was an administrative act without any criminal intent.
"We issue notice on all six petitions. The trial court order shall remain stayed," a bench of justices V Gopala Gowda and C Nagappan said after hearing arguments by Sibal, who represented the former Prime Minister, and other lawyers in the case.
82-year-old Singh's daughters, Upinder Singh and Daman Singh, were present in the court during the proceedings.
The bench also stayed the proceedings before the trial court and issued notice to the Centre on a plea challenging constitutional validity of section 13 (1)(d)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The other three summoned as accused are Hindalco, Shubhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya, its officials. All the six were summoned by Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar to appear before the court on April 8.
"I must confess that I have not been able to find out what is the illegal act done by the petitioner in the case," Sibal said at the outset of the 35-minute proceedings.
Sibal said it is not an illegal act to allot a mine contending that the administrative acts of the Prime Minister cannot be faulted on the ground that he did not follow the recommendations or procedures adopted by the screening committee.
Earlier last week, Manmohan Singh moved the Supreme Court against a special court order summoning him as accused in the case of allocation of Talabira-II coal block in Odisha in 2005 to Aditya Birla group company Hindalco. The Court for now has provided interim relief to Manmohan Singh and others.
SC also issued notice to Centre on a separate plea challenging constitutional validity of a provision of Prevention of Corruption Act. Appearing on behalf of Manmohan Singh, Kapil Sibal said that PM has plenary powers and his administrative decisions can't be termed illegal.
Singh sought quashing of the summons issued to him to appear as an accused on April 8 by Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar on the ground that the order was passed without application of mind. "There is complete non-application of mind," the petition said about the March 11 order.
The trial judge, on March 11, had said, "I am taking cognisance of offences under Sections 120B (conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC and under Sections 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d)(3) of PCA against six accused, M/s Hindalco, Shubhendu Amitabh, D Bhattacharya, Kumar Mangalam Birla, P C Parakh and Dr Manmohan Singh." Section 13(1)(c) of PCA relates to a public servant dishonestly misappropriating property entrusted to him or allowing any other person to do so.
Section 13(1)(d)(3) relates to a public servant obtaining any pecuniary advantage for any person without any public interest. Hindalco and its officials Subhendu Amitabh and D Bhattacharya have also filed similar petitions challenging the CBI judge order.
With Agency inputs