Chhattisgarh coal block scam: Vijay Darda, son Devender Darda, and businessman Manoj Kumar Jayaswal sentenced to four years in jail
A Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced ex-Rajya Sabha MP and media baron Vijay Darda, his son Devender Darda, and businessman Manoj Kumar Jayaswal to four years in jail in a case related to irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh, saying the convicts obtained the block by cheating the Government of India. All three convicts were taken into custody immediately after the court order.
Special Judge Sanjay Bansal also awarded three-year jail terms to ex-coal secretary H C Gupta and two former senior public servants K S Kropha and K C Samria in the case. The three convicts were, however, granted bail by the court to enable them to challenge their conviction and punishment before the High Court. The court also imposed a fine of Rs.50 lakh on the company, JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd, which was convicted in the case.
The court imposed a fine of Rs.15 lakh each on the Dardas and Jayaswal. The other three convicts were directed to pay a fine of Rs.20,000 each. “The convicts had obtained the said coal block by committing cheating with the Govt. of India. The prosecution is justified in saying that the loss to the nation was huge,” the judge said.
In the 13th conviction in the coal scam, the massive scandal which rocked the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government, the court had on July 13 held the seven accused guilty under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC, and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
During the argument on the quantum of sentence, the CBI had sought the maximum punishment of seven years for the convicts, claiming that Darda and his son had met the then CBI director Ranjit Sinha at his residence to scuttle the investigation.
The Supreme Court had constituted an SIT to investigate the allegations against Sinha of trying to influence the probe in the coal scam cases. Sinha, a 1974 batch IPS officer of Bihar cadre, died from Covid-related complications in 2021. CBI’s senior public prosecutor A P Singh had claimed a witness in the case stated he was threatened by Jayaswal, who tried to influence him to not depose against him.
The court had on November 20, 2014, refused to accept a closure report submitted by the CBI in the case and directed the federal probe agency to investigate it afresh, stating that the former MP had “misrepresented” facts in letters written to the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who held the coal portfolio. The court said Vijay Darda, the chairperson of the Lokmat media group, had done so to secure the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh for JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd. The Lokmat Group is a multi-platform media company based in Maharashtra.
The court said the offence of cheating was committed by private parties in furtherance of a conspiracy hatched between them and public servants. JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd was allotted Fatehpur (East) coal block by the 35th Screening Committee. The CBI had alleged in its FIR that JLD Yavatmal had wrongfully concealed the previous allocation of four coal blocks to its group companies in 1999-2005, but the agency later filed a closure report, saying no undue benefit was extended to JLD Yavatmal by the coal ministry in the allocation of coal blocks.
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