A Delhi special court Monday summoned former coal secretary HC Gupta and five others to answer to charges of corruption, conspiracy and cheating levelled against them for allegedly aiding a Madhya Pradesh-based company to illegally acquire coal blocks. They are the first senior public officials to be summoned in a coal allocation scam case.
In doing so, special Judge Bharat Parashar rejected CBI’s closure report in the case against Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Limited (KSSPL) and its directors. It said the report read “more like a defence given by an accused person” rather than a report by an investigating agency.
Calling CBI’s probe of the case “sketchy”, the court refused to accept that KSSPL and its directors had duped the coal ministry about their company’s net worth and production capacity without “active collusion” between the directors, ministry officials and members of the screening committee who were in charge of scrutinising all applications for coal blocks filed between 1993-2010.
Besides Gupta, the court also summoned as accused former coal ministry joint secretary KS Kropha, ex-director (coal allocation-I section) KC Samaria, KSSPL’s managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia, its chartered accountant Amit Goyal and the firm on October 31. They will have to answer to charges of corruption, criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by a public servant and cheating filed under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
In his 31-page judgment, the judge noted that the CBI had reached a wrong conclusion because it had not properly investigated all the facts in the case. He further rejected CBI’s contention that KSSPL’s application for a coal block had not been properly scrutinised by the members of the screening committee due to “manpower shortage”.
“The mere statement that due to shortage of manpower they (ministry officials) could not do so is no explanation in the eyes of law,” said the judge. “It is crystal clear that omission on the part of coal ministry officers to not scrutinise the applications as regard their eligibility and completeness was a deliberate act,” he added.
He further said that this act of allocating blocks without reasoning was arbitrary and amounted to “criminal misconduct” by the government officials, which had caused a massive loss to the nation and exchequer by misappropriating the country’s natural resources for personal gain.
According to the CBI, KSSPL had given a false statement about its annual turnover for two financial years, 2004-2005 and 2005-2006, in their application form while applying for coal blocks. Further the agency found out that the screening committee ignored Madhya Pradesh’s rejection of KSSPL’s application.
The judge further added that while no other public officials had been implicated in the case so far, evidence of the same is likely to come up during trial. “The law will certainly take its own course,” the judge warned.