In the first verdict to emerge in the coal scam, a special court on Monday convicted Jharkhand Ispat Private Limited (JIPL) and two of its directors of conspiring to forge documents for illegally obtaining mining blocks and cheating the exchequer of crores of rupees.
Special judge Bharat Parashar found JIPL and its directors, RS Rungta and RC Rungta, guilty of offences committed under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. They were taken into custody on the spot. The arguments on their sentencing will begin on March 31.
The case pertains to the allocation of Jharkhand’s North Dhadu coal block to JIPL and other companies. On March 21 last year, the court had framed charges of conspiracy, forgery and cheating against the convicts. All the accused pleaded not guilty, and denied the allegations levelled against them by the CBI.
In December last year, the court had dismissed RS Rungta’s plea to summon former prime minister Manmohan Singh and ex-minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao as defence witnesses in the case.
The businessmen were granted bail on January 14 last year on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh each and a surety of the like amount.
In its charge sheet, the CBI had alleged that JIPL had “grossly misrepresented” facts before the ministry of steel (MoS) and ministry of coal (MoC) to inflate their claim – thereby inducing MoC officers and the screening committee to allocate the coal block to them. JIPL and three other firms – M/s Electro Steel Casting Ltd, M/s Adhunik Alloys and Power Ltd and M/s Pawanjay Steel and Power Ltd – were allocated the coal block by the 27th and 30th screening committees, it added.
The CBI charged the committee with making no attempt to verify the claims made by the firms, and said that the MoS hadn’t developed any method to assess the competency of the companies. The MoC’s records related to the case were stated to be missing, it added.
The coal allocation scam, which had thrown the former UPA government into a major controversy, pertained to the “inefficient” allocation of the country’s coal deposits to public sector entities and private companies between 2004 and 2009.