A special CBI court ordered on Tuesday that former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda, ex-coal secretary HC Gupta and seven others be put on trial over charges of corruption, criminal conspiracy and cheating in a coal scam case.
Judge Bharat Parashar fixed July 31 for formal framing of charges against the nine people in a case pertaining to allocation of coal blocks to Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL) in the mineral-rich state’s Rajhara town.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) alleges that Koda, Gupta and the others conspired to favour VISUL in assigning the coal field.
“However, the blatant and brazen manner in which various public servants acted in conspiracy with the private parties involved, so as to procure not only allotment of a coal block but also excess coal is prima facie writ large on the face of the record,” the court remarked.
The case has bruised the former chief minister’s political career as he lost his Singhbhum parliamentary seat to BJP’s Laxman Gilua in the 2014 election and then suffered a defeat from the Majhgaon assembly constituency at the hands of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM) leader Niral Purty.
When the court was reading out its order on Tuesday, Koda, who is also an accused in a Rs 3,500-crore money laundering case, was meeting people in his native village, Patahatu.
“We will go to the appellate court to challenge the charges,” he told HT over the phone. “I am innocent and convinced that justice would come to me.”
Jharkhand’s former chief secretary AK Basu, VISUL director Vaibhav Tulsyan, chartered accountant Navin Kumar Tulsyan, government officials Basant Kumar Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh and alleged middleman Vijay Joshi are the others named in the case apart from Koda and Gupta.
Massive irregularities in allocation of coal blocks came to light in 2012, when national auditor CAG said the government sold around 200 coal field leases to private and state-run firms at artificially low prices and the non-transparent process cost the exchequer about Rs 1.86 lakh crore.
Last year, the Supreme Court declared illegal nearly 300 coal licenses issued from 1993. Since then the Narendra Modi government has auctioned 32 coal blocks online.