CBI court convicts HC Gupta and others in coal block allocation scam

Court to pronounce quantum of sentence on May 22
Last Updated 19 May 2017, 10:47 IST
A Special CBI Court convicted former Coal Ministry Secretary HC Gupta and four others in a coal mining block allocation scam case here on Friday.

Former joint secretary of the Coal Ministry K S Kropha, then director K C Samaria, Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) and its managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia were the four others who were held guilty by the Special Court in this case.

The Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar, however, acquitted chartered accountant Amit Goyal in the case. The Court will pronounce its order on the quantum of sentence to be handed down to five convicts on May 22. The case pertained to the irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block to KSSPL in Madhya Pradesh.

The Court ordered framing of charges against the accused in the case in October 2015 for offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the Indian penal Code (IPC) and under relevant provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act. It also then observed that Gupta prima facie violated the law and the trust imposed on him as kept the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh “in dark” in the matter.

The Court issued summons to Gupta and other accused on July 31, 2015. It had earlier refused to accept the CBI's closure report, directing the investigation agency to further investigate the case.

This is the first case of coal scam in which accused have been convicted. Gupta, was Coal Secretary for two years during the Congress-led United progressive Alliance (UPA) regime before he retired in 2008, is facing trial in seven other cases of the scam.

According to the CBI, the mining right was granted to the KSSPL even as the firm's application was incomplete and not in accordance with the guidelines. In its application, the company had misrepresented its net worth and existing capacity. Besides, the State Government had also not given its recommendation for allocation of any coal block to the company.

The conviction of the former Coal Ministry Secretary was seen in the bureaucratic circles as a test case for them to decide as to what extent a government officer should take risk of taking decisions on competing commercial interests.

The IAS officers’ association last year came in support of Gupta after he broke down in the Court saying he did not have capacity to hire a lawyer to contest his case. The association then offered to pay his lawyers' fees but raised the issue of culpability in decision making.

The CBI began investigation into coal scam and registered several FIRs following recommendation of the Central Vigilance Commission in 2012. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Hansraj Ahir (now Union Minister of State for Home Affairs) had lodged a complaint with the CVC.
(Published 19 May 2017, 10:47 IST)

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