Coal block allocation scam: Ex-Coal Secretary, 3 others convicted, quantum of sentence on Aug 4

A Delhi court on Friday convicted former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and former Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Coal (MoC) K S Kropha, in a case related to a Maharashtra coal block allocation scam.

Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj also convicted Grace Industries Ltd (GIL) and its director Mukesh Gupta of criminal conspiracy and cheating, and posted the matter for August 4, when the court will hear augments on the quantum of sentence to be awarded to the four convicts.

According to the CBI, between 2005 and 2011, the accused persons hatched a criminal conspiracy and cheated the government by fraudulently inducing the MoC to allocate ‘Lohara East Coal Block’ in favour of GIL based on false information about net worth, capacity, equipment, and status of procurement and installation of the plant.

In its judgment, the court noted that H C Gupta made three misrepresentations in discussions with the Principal Secretary to the then Prime Minister.

In the first instance, he gave a false impression that Screening Committee’s decision to allocate the coal block among competing applicants was based on inter-se priority, the court said, adding that again, he concealed information that GIL’s application was not sent to the Ministry of Steel (MoS) for its mandatory comment.
He further made misrepresentations regarding recommendations for the company’s power plant, it said.

H C Gupta was the chairperson of the then Screening Committee. The court noted that the Secretary had received a complaint letter making serious allegations against the accused company which were supported by documentary evidence. “In ordinary circumstances, it should have set alarm bells ringing. But nothing of the sort happened. The letter was given a quiet burial in the MoC,” the judge noted.

He said that in the light of alarming information received by the Secretary, the normal course of action should have been to give urgent directions on the letter before marking it to the Joint Secretary for promptly processing the same and putting up with a detailed note.

“The Secretary and the Joint Secretary, both senior officers were steel frame of the country. Not only no noting for prompt action was noted on the complaint letter but they never cared to follow it up and never enquired from the Section (concerned for action on the letter) the fate of the complaint letter,” the judge said.

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