Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta has challenged before the Delhi high court his conviction and two-year jail term awarded by a special court in a coal scam case. Gupta, who was the Coal Secretary from December 31, 2005 to November 2008, also sought regular bail from the high court in the matter since the interim relief granted by the trial court, in order to enable him to file an appeal against his conviction and jail term, comes to an end on July 20. A high court bench of Justice Vinod Goel today admitted the appeal and issued notice to the CBI which was accepted by agency’s counsel Tarannum Cheema. The court tagged his application with the similar plea of another accused, Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia, the Managing Director of convicted firm Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) — in the case which will come up for hearing on July 10.
Advocate B S Mathur, appearing for Gupta, sought setting aside trial court’s May 22 judgement, awarding him jail term for irregularities in the allocation of Madhya Pradesh based Thesgora-B/Rudrapuri coal block to KSSPL. He claimed that the trial court was wrong in convicting and sending him to jail in the case. The trial court had awarded Gupta and two serving senior officials two-year imprisonment in the case, besides imposing a fine of Rs one crore on KSSPL.
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Ahluwalia was awarded three-year jail term by the court for misrepresenting facts in its application before the Ministry of Coal (MOC) which was then headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Besides Gupta, then joint secretary K S Kropha and then director K C Samaria in the MOC were handed down punishment for cheating, criminal conspiracy and corruption.
They became the first public servants to be convicted and sentenced for the coal block allocation scam, unearthed during the previous UPA regime. Besides the jail term, the trial court had also imposed a fine of Rs one lakh each on the three bureaucrats in the case. Ahluwalia was also directed to pay a fine of Rs 30 lakh.
While holding them guilty of multiple offences, the court said Gupta, Kropha and Samria had entered into a “criminal conspiracy” with KSSPL and Ahluwalia to commit “criminal misconduct ” for procuring coal block allotment for KSSPL. All the convicts were, however, granted bail on a personal bond of Rs one lakh and one surety of like amount soon after the sentence was announced, to enable them move the high court challenging the trial court verdict.
CBI had in October 2012 lodged an FIR in the matter, but on March 27, 2014, it had filed a closure report in the case. The court had rejected the closure report on October 13, 2014 and summoned Gupta and others as accused. The CBI had alleged that the firm had misrepresented its net worth and the existing capacity, adding that the state government had also not recommended the firm for the allocation of any coal block.
The court had on October 14 last year framed charges against the accused. As many as ten more coal cases are pending against Gupta and the proceedings are going on individually. The Supreme Court had last year dismissed his plea seeking a joint trial in all these cases.