Coal scam: Court grants bail to ex-Coal Secy, four others

New Delhi: A special court today granted bail to former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and four others, including two senior public servants, facing charges for their alleged roles in a coal block allocation scam case.

Besides Gupta, the court granted bail to two senior public servants, K S Kropha and K C Samria, Brahmani Thermal Power Pvt Ltd (BTPPL) chairman, P Trivikrama Prasad and its vice chairman Y Harish Chandra Prasad. Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar granted them bail after they appeared as accused before it in a case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rampia and dip side of Rampia coal block in Odisha to M/s Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd (NPPL), which is now known as BTPPL, in January 2008.

The court granted them bail on furnishing a personal bond of Rs one lakh each with one surety of like amount. The counsel appearing for the accused sought bail on the ground that they were not arrested during the probe by the CBI and have cooperated in the investigation and there was no likelihood that they will flee from justice. The CBI opposed their bail plea contending that being influential persons they may tamper with the evidence or delay the trial. “Keeping in view the overall facts and circumstances of the case, coupled with the submissions made, I am of the considered opinion that interest of justice will be met if the accused persons are granted bail on a personal bond of Rs 1 lakh each with one surety of the like amount,” the judge said.

These five individual accused, along with BTPPL, were summoned by the court for the alleged offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) and 420 (cheating) of IPC and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Kropha was the then Joint Secretary of Ministry of Coal (MoC) while Samria was the then Director (Coal Allocation-I section) in the ministry.

During the hearing, the court directed CBI to supply copy of the charge sheet as well as documents field by the agency in the case to the accused persons. The investigating officer said that he will provide the documents to the accused today itself after which the court fixed the matter for scrutiny of documents on September 9. The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rampia and dip side of Rampia coal block in Odisha to M/s Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd (NPPL), which is now known as BTPPL, in January 2008. CBI had earlier filed a charge sheet against NPPL, P Trivikrama Prasad and Y Harish Chandra Prasad for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy and cheating under IPC and said in its final report that no offence was found to be committed by the public servants.

However, the court on November 12, last year disagreed with the conclusion drawn by CBI regarding the role of public servants and had observed that acts of Gupta, Kropha and Samria in overlooking alleged misrepresentation by NPPL for acquiring the coal block, prima facie, amounted to criminal misconduct. It had noted that it was prima facie clear that the decision of allocating coal block to NPPL was taken by the MoC officers and screening committee, without keeping public interest in mind. It had directed CBI to further investigate the case and also asked it to place relevant records before competent authority to consider according sanction to prosecute Kropha and Samria, who are still in government service, for alleged offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The competent authority has recently accorded sanction to prosecute Kropha and Samria under the anti-graft law. The court, while summoning these accused, said that Gupta has also allegedly committed offence under section 409 of IPC read with section 13(1)(c) of PC Act and since he has already retired, there was no bar in taking cognisance against him under the anti-graft law. CBI, in its charge sheet, had alleged that the accused had misrepresented facts, including inflated net worth, to bag the coal block. CBI had alleged that NPPL had fraudulently claimed in its application that it was supported by Globeleq Singapore Pvt Ltd, Navbharat Ventures Ltd and Mahalaxmi Group Ltd.

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