Court directs CBI to further probe against ex-Coal Secy, otrs

Court directs CBI to further probe against ex-Coal Secy, otrs
The conduct of former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and two other government officials prima facie falls under the ambit of criminal misconduct, a special court today said and directed CBI to further investigate a coal blocks allocation scam case involving a Nagpur-based firm in which it had filed a closure report.

The court said it was prima facie clear that the officers of the Ministry of Coal (MOC) or the Screening Committee acted in a manner which was "detrimental" to the public interest and they allowed JAS Infrastructure and Power Ltd, now known as JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd (JICPL), to "misappropriate" the nationalized natural resources of the country, i.e. coal.

"It is also prima facie clear that H C Gupta, who was Secretary, MOC (Ministry of Coal) and was also the Chairman of Screening Committee, K S Kropha, the then Joint Secretary, MOC and who was also the Member-Convener beside K C Samaria, the then Director, CA-I, MOC were the persons responsible to take all those safeguards which were necessary to protect the public interest and thus they ought to be proceeded against.

"Their conduct clearly falls within the four corners of the offence of criminal mis-conduct as defined in Section 13 (1)(c) and 13(1)(d)(iii) of the Prevention of Corruption Act besides offence under section 409 IPC read with Section 120-B IPC," Special CBI Judge Bharat Prashar said in a 45-page order.

The court, which refused to accept CBI's closure report, ordered further probe in the case and directed it to file the progress report on December 19.

It also said that besides JICPL, the company which had applied for allocation of Mahuagarhi Coal Block in Jharkhand, "its director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal at whose instance the false information was submitted or the misrepresentation was made, are prima facie liable to be proceeded against".

The court passed the order in the case in which CBI had earlier filed closure report and lodged an FIR against Nagpur-based businessman Manoj Jayaswal, JAS Infrastructure and Power Ltd, Abhishek Jayaswal and Anand Jayaswal for alleged irregularities by the firm in acquiring coal blocks.

The judge said that in his opinion the conclusion drawn by CBI to close the case "cannot be accepted" and prima facie offence of cheating under section 420 of the IPC by private parties involved has been committed in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy under section 120 B of IPC hatched between them and the officers of MOC and Screening Committee.

On October 27, Special Public Prosecutor R S Cheema had differed with CBI's conclusion seeking closure of the case saying the court should proceed against the accused.

The judge also said "at the same time MOC officers and the Screening Committee have prima facie committed offences of criminal breach of trust and of criminal mis-conduct i.e. under section 409 IPC and Section 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d)(iii) PC Act in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy i.e. under section 120B IPC entered into by them with the private parties involved."

While Gupta has retired, Kropha and Samaria are still in service and prior sanction is required to prosecute them.

The court asked CBI to place before the sanctioning authority the records of the case for considering the issue of according sanction to prosecute public servants involved for the offence under the PC Act.

"In view of the aforesaid circumstances when sanction to prosecute two of the public servants involved is required so before proceeding to take cognizance of any of the offences either against the private parties involved or the public servants, I deem it appropriate to refer the present matter for further investigation to CBI," the judge said.

The court said "it was prima facie clear that the decision was taken by the MOC Officers and Screening Committee without keeping public interest in mind and with manifest disregard to the consequences that such an act would severely undermine the public interest and that such decision on their part would result in unduly obtaining pecuniary advantage by the private parties involved".

"Thus, in these circumstances, the decision-makers who were having dominion over the nationalized natural resources of the country i.e. coal blocks have to take responsibility of the consequences," it said.

The court said if the entire process of coal block allocation is seen and analysed, the same speak volumes about the "active collusion" between the public servants involved in the process and the private parties in whose favour the coal block stood allotted.

It added that it was prima facie clear that the entire process of allocation of coal block as carried out by MOC and the Screening Committee was a "sham affair".

CBI had lodged an FIR in the case on the allegation that the company had not disclosed to the Coal Ministry that it was already in possession of coal blocks.

The company allegedly signed a memorandum of understanding for small periods with a number of companies and added their equity to project their sound financial status at the time of application for coal blocks, CBI had said in its FIR.

However, during the investigation, CBI said it could not find any "prosecutable evidence" against the firm and others and filed a closure report in the case.

The court, in its order, noted that four coal blocks were earlier allotted to Abhijeet Group of Companies, whose one such firm was JICPL, besides the three coal blocks which stood allotted to them by the 35th and 36th Screening Committee.

It also said it was crystal clear that false information in the application form regarding earlier allocation of coal block was "deliberately" furnished to induce government of India to allot one more coal block to JICPL.

The court said another issue of misrepresenting qua the net-worth of JICPL as stated in the application form was also mentioned in the FIR but a perusal of the final report showed that there was "hardly any in-depth investigation" carried out regarding this aspect.
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