Coal block case: SC yet to name appropriate bench

New Delhi, Sep 15 (IANS) The Supreme Court hearing into the plea by former prime minister Manmohan Singh and industrialist Kumaramangal Birla for quashing criminal proceedings against them for alleged wrongdoing in allocation of a coal block to the latter’s company is likely to be delayed as it may be heard by a bench other than the one hearing coal scam cases.

Talabira II coal blocks located in Odisha were allocated to Hindalco in 2005.

A bench of Chief Justice H.L. Dattu and Justice Arun Mishra on Tuesday directed the deletion of matter figuring in the advanced list for September 21 that was supposed to come before the bench headed by Justice Madan B. Lokur hearing the coal scam related matters.

“You are neither here nor there,” Chief Justice Dattu said, noting that the summoning of Manmohan Singh and Birla by the trial court was stayed on April 1 by a bench of Justice V. Gopala Gowda and Justice C. Nagappan while the matters relating to coal block allocation scam are being heard by a three-judge bench headed by Justice Lokur.

Chief Justice Dattu said: “I had posted the matter (Manmohan Singh challenging his summons by the trial court) for the coal bench but you (counsel Kapil Sibal) say these are not coal scam related matters.”

The matter came up on Tuesday as Sibal had told the court on Monday that the matter was listed for hearing on September 21, though notice had been issued but the pleading was yet to conclude.

He said that in the absence of pleading being complete, the matter cannot be listed for hearing.

The chief justice, while deleting the matter listed for hearing on September 21, granted liberty to mention the matter before it for hearing at a later stage.

Besides Manmohan Singh and Birla, the apex court April 1 had also stayed the summons to former coal secretary P.C. Parikh, D. Bhattacharya and Hindalco.

Birla has challenged the constitutional validity of a section 13(1)(d)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.

The special court had summoned Singh, Birla and others after it rejected two closure report by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

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