New Delhi: Industralist Naveen Jindal, former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao, ex-Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta had conspired with others to get a coal block allocated in favour of two Jindal group firms, CBI today told a special court. CBI said that entire system in Jharkhand government was “manipulated” to favour Jindal group companies so that Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Ltd (GSIPL) could be allocated Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block.
“Dasari Narayan Rao, Madhu Koda, Naveen Jindal, H C Gupta and all others conspired with the private persons and entered into a criminal conspiracy to get the coal block allocated in favour of Jindal Group firms,” senior public prosecutor V K Sharma told Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar. Jindal, Rao, Koda, Gupta and 11 others were chargesheeted by CBI in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand to JSPL and GSIPL.
Advancing arguments on framing of charges in a coal scam case, the prosecutor said JSPL and GSIPL were allocated the coal block by abusing the power of public office and despite objections of some of the members of the screening committee, Gupta had recommended these two firms for the coal block.
Meanwhile, advocates appearing for Naveen Jindal and Rao, vehemently opposed CBI’s contention and said there was no evidence warranting framing of charges against their clients.
Rao’s counsel said that being the then Minister of State for Coal, he had no role to play with what happened in state of Jharkhand and he was not involved in any conspiracy as the recommendation was made by the screening committee with which he had nothing to do.
He also argued that the final approval for allocation of coal block to Jindal group firms was given then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also the then Minister of Coal, and Rao had no power as far as coal allocation was concerned.
Similarly, senior advocate S V Raju, appearing for Naveen Jindal, said that CBI has not been able to show the links and nature of the alleged criminal conspiracy and there was no evidence which substantiates the allegations levelled by CBI. The arguments on framing of charges in the case would continue tomorrow.
During the arguments, CBI said, “The Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block was strictly for power sector. The applications of the applicant firms were sent to the state of Jharkhand and administrative ministry, that is, the Ministry of Power. The entire system was manipulated in the Jharkhand government to favour Jindal group firms.”
The prosecutor said that Jharkhand government had formed a three member sub-committee to look into the applications and the sub-committee recommended Lanco Infratech Ltd, JSW Energy Ltd and JSPL for Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in ratio of 40 per cent, 30 per cent and 30 per cent shares respectively.
“Madhu Koda had changed the name of one of the three firms suggested by the sub-committee. The name of JSW Energy Ltd was replaced by GSIPL by Koda,” he claimed. “We will have to see what was going behind the curtain and will also have to look into the circumstances in which name of GSIPL was inserted in the recommendation for the coal block,” the CBI said, adding that Jindal had met Koda two-three times in Ranchi and Delhi during that period.
It further claimed that GSIPL had concealed facts in its application form as well as in its feed back form regarding previous allocation of coal blocks to its group firms and also misrepresented facts about its net worth. “The Ministry of Power had not given its recommendation in favour of JSPL or GSIPL. Names of GSIPL or JSPL were not recommended by Ministry of Power which was the administrative ministry due to their poor preparedness and other aspects,” the agency said.
Regarding Rao, the agency said, “being the then Minister of State for Coal, had sent a note to Coal Secretary in which he said certain eligible firms who have been recommended by the state government may not be eliminated and for this he gave some grounds but these grounds were never there in the guidelines.”
It also said that around Rs two crore was transferred to accused firm Sowbhagya Media Ltd, in which Rao was one of the Directors, by another accused firm New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd. Countering CBI’s submissions, Rao’s counsel said that the Minister of State for Coal was not a member of the screening committee. “On one side there is screening committee and on the other side there is Minister of Coal. MoS (Coal) was a powerless person,” he argued.
Rao’s counsel argued that “the screening committee had deliberated at length and after deliberations, they gave their recommendation. The note on the basis of which Rao had come into picture as per the CBI’s case was not deliberated upon by the screening committee.”
“CBI is trying to show that Rao’s note had influenced Gupta but this is not correct. Rao’s note cannot be construed as recommendation. The Coal Minister, that is, the then Prime Minister had approved the recommendations of the screening committee and MoS (Coal) had nothing to do with it,” he said.
“When a file was routed to the Minister of Coal, being the MoS (Coal) it was my constitutional obligation to look into it,” he said. Regarding CBI’s allegation of Rs two crore transaction, Rao’s counsel said it was purely a business transaction.
Meanwhile, Jindal’s counsel said CBI has not been able to show the evidence which can make out even a prima facie case of criminal conspiracy. “The evidence placed by CBI in the case did not warrant framing of charges against Naveen Jindal,” he said, adding, “there is no link between most of the alleged conspirators.”
“CBI must show that Naveen Jindal had deceived anyone by making any false promise or making any false representation. This is a necessary ingredient for the alleged offence of cheating under the IPC. There is no such evidence,” he said.
“Mens rea must be established. Just because you are promoter, it cannot be said there is mens rea. There is no allegation against Jindal. There is no case of cheating or misrepresentation as far as JSPL is concerned,” he said. He also said that CBI’s case itself do not make out any offence against the accused.
The other individual accused in the case are — Rajeev Jain, Director of Jindal Realty Pvt Ltd, Girish Kumar Suneja and Radha Krishna Saraf, Directors of GSIPL, Suresh Singhal, Director of New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd, K Ramakrishna Prasad, Managing Director of Sowbhagya Media Ltd and chartered accountant Gyan Swaroop Garg.
These accused are presently out on bail. Besides the ten accused, five firms — JSPL, Jindal Realty Pvt Ltd, Gagan Infraenergy Ltd (formerly known as GSIPL), Sowbhagya Media Ltd and New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd — are also accused in the case.
While summoning them as accused, the court had said prima facie offences under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with sections 409(criminal breach of trust by public servant), 420 (cheating) of IPC read with sections 13(1)(c) and 13(1)(d) (criminal misconduct by a public servant) of the Prevention of Corruption Act were made out against them.