The Delhi High Court today stayed a trial court order imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakh on a Kolkata-based iron and steel company in connection with a coal scam case.
The Delhi High Court today stayed a trial court order imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakh on a Kolkata-based iron and steel company in connection with a coal scam case. Justice Anu Malhotra put on the hold till January 22, the next date of hearing, the special CBI court’s order to deposit the fine. The high court’s interim order came on the appeal of the company, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd’s (VISUL), which has sought waiver of the costs. The high court also sought response of the CBI on the company’s plea seeking setting aside of the trial court’s December 16 order convicting it in the coal scam case. “The trial court order is stayed on parity with the other convict’s appeal,” the court said.
The company, in its plea, has said that the special court had wrongly found them guilty of the alleged scam. The high court on December 20 had sought response of the CBI on an appeal by former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda’s close aide Vijay Joshi against the trial court’s order awarding him three years jail term in the case. While admitting his appeal against conviction and jail term, the court had suspended the sentence of Joshi till the pendency of his appeal and had granted him bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs one lakh and a surety of the like amount. Koda, ex-coal secretary H C Gupta, A K Basu, former Jharkhand chief secretary, and Joshi were awarded jail terms of three years for indulging in corrupt practices and hatching a criminal conspiracy in the allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to the Kolkata-based company.
While confirming his bail, the high court had directed Joshi not to leave the country during the entire pendency of his appeal.
It had also stayed till January 22, the next date of hearing, the payment of the Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on Joshi by the special court. The trial court had directed the convict to deposit by January 3 the fine amount and had suspended his sentence till February 18 to enable him to appeal before the superior court. Advocate Tarannum Cheema, appearing for the CBI, gave a list of orders in the coal cases where the convicts were directed to deposit the fine and said the time to deposit the money was not extended. While sentencing the convicts, the special court had said “white collar crimes” were more “dangerous” to the society than ordinary crimes.
It had imposed fines of Rs 50 lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 1 lakh on VISUL, Koda and Gupta respectively in the UPA-era coal scam. Rs one lakh fine was also imposed on Basu. The convicts were granted statutory bail for a period of two months to enable them to file appeals in the Delhi High Court. So far, four out of 30 coal block allocation scam cases have been decided by the special court, including this order, and 12 people and four companies have been held guilty. The convicts were tried for offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
While the offence of cheating carries a maximum punishment of seven years jail term, criminal breach of trust by public servants entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment. The CBI had said that the firm had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007. It had said that although the Jharkhand government and the steel ministry did not recommend VISUL’s case for coal block allocation, the 36th Screening Committee recommended the block to the accused firm. The CBI had said that Gupta, who was chairman of the screening committee, had concealed facts from then prime minister Manmohan Singh, who at that time headed the coal ministry too, that Jharkhand had not recommended VISUL for allocation of a coal block.