Former prime minister Manmohan Singh was summoned by a court today as an accused in a case linked to the coal scam that saw mining rights being assigned without transparency to private firms.
A special CBI court ordered Dr Singh, Hindalco chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, former Coal Secretary PC Parakh and three others to appear on April 8.
"I am upset, but this is a part of life," the 82-year-old former prime minister told reporters.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley met Dr Singh in Parliament but sources described it as a "courtesy meeting".
Dr Singh, who was prime minister for 10 years till his Congress party lost power last year, is being investigated for criminal conspiracy and breach of trust, a charge that carries a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The CBI had told the court in its final report that there was "no prosecutable evidence against anyone."
The case involves the allocation of a coal field in Odisha's Talabira block in 2005 to Hindalco. At the time, Dr Singh held direct charge of the Coal Ministry.
A 75-page court order says Kumar Mangalam Birla met Dr Singh, after which the prime minister's office "showed undue interest and sent reminders to the coal ministry." The court also accused Dr Singh of ignoring the decision of a screening committee to allot the coal field to Neyveli Lignite Corporation, a public sector unit.
In a statement, Hindalco said today: "Hindalco reiterates that none of its officials, including its Chairman Kumar Mangalam Birla, have pursued any unlawful or inappropriate means for securing the allocation."
The government issued an ordinance to re-auction the fields but needs to pass legislation to make the order permanent.
The auction of 31 coal blocks this year has reportedly raked in over Rs 2 lakh crore.