Former RS MP among those convicted in coal scam case; sentencing on July 18
A Delhi court on Thursday convicted seven accused, including former Rajya Sabha MP and media baron Vijay Darda and ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta in a case related to irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh. In the 13th conviction in the coal scam, the scandal which rocked the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government, Special Judge Sanjay Bansal also convicted Darda’s son Devender Darda, two senior public servants K S Kropha and K C Samria, M/s JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd and its Director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal.
The court held the accused guilty of criminal conspiracy (punishable under Section 120-B of IPC) and cheating (punishable under Section 420 of IPC) and under relevant sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. The judge will hear the argument on the quantum of punishment on July 18. The court accepted the submissions made by senior Public Prosecutor A P Singh that the CBI was able to prove its case beyond all reasonable doubts.
The Court had on November 20, 2014, refused to accept the 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 big media firm Lokmat 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 that 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. The CBI had said nothing substantial emerged to establish cheating and criminal conspiracy among officials of the Ministry of Coal and JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd’s directors.
A major scandal rocked the Manmohan Singh government in 2012 after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) panned the government for inefficient allocation of 194 coal blocks to public sector enterprises and private companies between 2004 and 2009 for captive use in a non-transparent way. It said instead of allocating valuable natural resources, the government should have gone for competitive bidding.
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