A special CBI court in Maharashtra on Friday convicted former Union Coal secretary HC Gupta and former joint secretary KS Kropha among others in a coal scam case. The court found irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks in Maharashtra’s Lohara East.
As per reports, Mukesh Gupta, the director of a Nagpur-based firm Grace Industries Limited has also been convicted in the coal scam case by the CBI court.
Delhi | Special CBI court convicts former Coal secretary HC Gupta and others in a coal scam case pertaining to irregularities in the allocation of a Maharashtra coal block to a Nagpur-based private company— ANI (@ANI) July 29, 2022
The CBI court of special judge Arun Bharadwaj found HC Gupta, KS Kropha and Mukesh Gupta guilty under various provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The sentences will be decided on August 22. The case was registered by the CBI in September 2012 under sections 120B r/w, 420 IPC r/w, 13(2) r/w, 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.
In its initial charge sheet filed in October 2014, the CBI had named Mukesh Gupta and his Grace Industries Ltd. The court, however, asked the probe agency to continue further investigation into the matter to ascertain the role of senior government staffers in the allocation of coal blocks. The court had asked CBI to seek sanctions to prosecute KS Kropha, the then joint secretary in the Ministry of Coal and VS Sawakhande, the former Director of the Directorate of Mining and Geology, Government of Maharashtra.
The CBI had reportedly found that Mukesh Gupta had obtained coal block allocations for Grace Industries Ld through cheating and fraudulent documents and that his actions were aided and supported by senior government officials like HC Gupta and Kropha. The irregularities in allocation were reported between 2005-2011. CBI had also alleged that Mukesh Gupta had used false documents to show his company’s net worth as 120 crores while its actual net worth was just 3.3 crores.
In August 2014, the Supreme Court of India cancelled the entire allocation of coal blocks. During the hearing of the case, the special court had also observed that the conduct of officials from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s office was not satisfactory.
A total of 34 witnesses were produced by the CBI in the case.
Not the first conviction for HC Gupta
It is notable here that former Union Coal secretary HC Gupta was earlier sentenced to 3 years in prison and then granted bail by a Delhi court in a coal scam case from West Bengal in 2018. Gupta’s conviction had garnered criticism, even from the IAS Association in the past, stating that Gupta was a public servant and he has been made a victim of circumstances, while the minister who he worked for had the final say, and was the final signatory in the allocations.
Conviction of honest IAS officers in Coal Scam is most unfortunate. A black letter day for bureaucracy – Convicting officers for bona fide decisions in the interest of administration. We stand by the officers in this time of distress. #HCGupta— IAS Association (@IASassociation) December 1, 2018
The coal scam was one of the biggest blots on the UPA government under Manmohan Singh. Even the ex-PM’s own office had come under scrutiny for alleged involvement in the irregularities.
In 2018, Minister of State for PMO and personnel Jeetendra Singh stated in a reply in Lok Sabha that the CBI is probing the role of a former PM’s office in the coal scam case. He had not used Manmohan Singh’s name. he stated that the CBI has obtained files in at least 20 cases related to the coal block allocations from the ex-PM’s office. He added that the former PM also acted in the capacity of the Minister of Coal.
The coal block scam is regarded as one of the biggest scams in India. The final CAG report in the matter pegs the total loss to the country at 1.86 lakhs crores. After the NDA government came to power, the process of allocation of coal blocks was cancelled and reallocation was done in a transparent auction.
HC Gupta was the Coal secretary from December 31, 2005, to November 2008 and had served under the Manmohan Singh government where the Coal ministry was under Shibu Soren and PM Manmohan Singh himself for different periods of time.
In another coal scam case pertaining to the allocation of a Chhattisgarh-based coal block, HC Gupta was acquitted by a Delhi court in August 2019. The court had opined that CBI had failed to prove its charges against Gupta.
In May 2017, HC Gupta, KS Kropha and KC Samria, who was the director in charge of coal block allocation, were convicted in a coal scam case by a special CBI court. The same court had given a clean chit to former PM Manmohan Singh who also had the portfolio of the Coal ministry during the period. The court had stated in its judgement that the convicted bureaucrats had withheld information from Manmohan Singh.
The screening committee that Gupta had headed during his tenure as Union Coal Secretary had cleared around 40 cases of coal mining rights, as per reports.