Saturday, June 25, 2022

First of a kind conviction: Former Coal Minister gets convicted in coal scam

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  • Former union minister Dilip Ray has been convicted by a special court for criminal conspiracy and other offences

  • Dilip Ray was the minister of state of coal (IC) in the then Vajpayee-led NDA government, he has been in the cabinet of three Prime Ministers

  • The coal scam case pertains to the irregularities in coal block allocation in Jharkhand in the year 1999

New Delhi: Former minister of state (coal) Dilip Ray has been convicted along with four others by a special court in the capital on Tuesday. The coal scam pertains to irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks in the state of Jharkhand back in 1999. The court convicted Dilip Ray, two senior officials of the Ministry of Coal at that time, Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam, Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL), Director of CTL Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining Ltd (CML) for criminal conspiracy and other offences. A total of six accused.

While pronouncing them guilty the court said “it has been concluded beyond shadows of all reasonable doubts that all the five accused persons – CLT, Agarwalla, Ray, Banerjee and Gautam conspired together so as to procure allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in favour of CTL and finally achieved the said object of the criminal conspiracy by undertaking various acts of cheating MOC by CTL and Agarwalla and by various acts constituting the offence of criminal misconduct by Ray, Banerjee and Gautam and also the offence of criminal breach of trust by a public servant by Ray…”

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The court convicted them for various offences including criminal conspiracy under section 120-B, criminal breach of trust by a public servant under section 409, cheating under the section of the IPC and corruption (PC Act). The court convicted the sixth accused, Castron Mining Ltd, for theft under section 79 of the IPC.

The special court said the former coal minister Dilip Ray “dishonestly facilitated the allocation of the abandoned non-nationalised coal mining area in favour of CTL and that too in violation of the direction of law. He thus dishonestly allowed misappropriation of the said coal mining area by company CTL”.

The court observed that Banerjee, Additional Secretary, MOC and Chairman 14th Screening Committee and Gautam, Adviser (Projects), MOC and Member Convenor, 14th Screening Committee “not only acted illegally but also clearly abused their position as such public servants in order to obtain allocation of abandoned coal mining area in favour of CTL. The manner in which the matter was handled inter-se between them while getting the application of CTL put up before the Screening Committee for consideration speaks volumes about their dishonest intention". 

“The entire proceedings in fact suggest that they both were leaving no stone unturned in ensuring allocation of an impugned coal block in favour of company CTL, by overcoming all objections,” the court said.

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He added that “it can not be said that the allocation of impugned non-nationalized abandoned coal mining area in favour of CTL was in furtherance of any public interest but it was rather undertaken to serve the interest of a private company and that too to the detriment of public interest and in violation of the unambiguous provisions of law.”

“Thus, on account of aforesaid circumstances, it clearly stands well established that the two accused public persons – Banerjee and Gautam – clearly abused their official position and not only acted illegally but also without any public interest while acting as such public servants, in order to obtain an allocation of a non-nationalized abandoned coal mining area in favour of CTL,” the judge said.

Advocate VK Sharma, appearing for CBI told the court that Ray, knowing fully well that CTL was not at all eligible as per policy laid down by him, relaxed the said guideline on August 23, 1999, so that CTL could get the coal block.

The court will pronounce the quantum of punishment on October 14.

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