A Special Court here that convicted Coal Ministry ex-Secretary H.C. Gupta and others in a coal block allocation case has said that officials withheld material information from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the matter.
Central Bureau of Investigation Special Judge Bharat Parashar's remarks came on Friday when the court convicted Gupta and two Coal Ministry former officials K.S. Kropha and K.C. Samria in the allocation of Thesgora B/Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL).
The KSSPL and its Managing Director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia were among those convicted for criminal conspiracy and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act.
"They (accused officials) certainly exploited this situation by abusing their offices… in order to procure allocation of Thesgora B/Rudrapuri coal block in favour of KSSPL by also withholding all material information regarding non-compliance with the guidelines from the (then) Prime Minister and Coal Minister (Manmohan Singh)," the court said.
Gupta had maintained during his trial that he had "no dominion" over the natural resource, and that Manmohan Singh — as Coal Minister — had given the final approval for the allocation of the said coal block.
The CBI had countered his claim, saying that Manmohan Singh was "kept in the dark" and that it was Gupta who "misled" officials of the Prime Minister's Office.
The court said: "While forwarding the file to (then) Prime Minister, as Minister of Coal, for approval of the recommendation of the Screening Committee, it was nowhere mentioned by any of the Ministry officers, much less by Gupta, that the applications have not been checked for their eligibility and completeness."
"The present case clearly show that Gupta, Kropha and Samria entered into a criminal conspiracy with KSSPL and its director Ahluwalia so as to procure allotment of a coal block in favour of KSSPL," the court judgment delivered on Friday said.
However, the court acquitted Gupta under Section 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC.
The court will deliver its order on the quantum of sentence on May 22.
Gupta is also facing trial in nine cases relating to the allocation of various coal blocks.
It was the third judgment by the Special Court exclusively dealing with the coal block allocation cases. Over 20 other cases investigated by the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate are pending in court.
On April 4, 2016, the court awarded four-year jail terms to two directors of Jharkhand Ispat Pvt. Ltd. in a coal block allocation case.
On July 27, 2016, the court awarded three-year jail terms to two senior officials of Delhi-based Rathi Steel and Power Ltd. in a coal block allocation case