Ex-Coal Secretary, 2 IAS officers convicted in coal scam case

In the first instance of senior IAS officers being convicted in the coal scam during the UPA rule, a special court in Delhi Friday convicted H C Gupta, former Coal Secretary, and K S Kropha, former Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry and now Meghalaya Chief Secretary, K C Samria, then Director in the Coal Ministry and now Joint Secretary in the Minority Affairs Ministry.

The court is to sentence them May 22. They were convicted under sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code, charged with abusing their positions as public servants, obtaining pecuniary advantage without public interest, and criminal conspiracy. Gupta, however, was acquitted of the charge of criminal breach of trust by a public servant.

The case relates to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B/Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Sponge Steel & Power Ltd.

The firm KSSPL and its managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia were also convicted under charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy. The court, however, acquitted chartered accountant Amit Goyal in the case.

During proceedings earlier, Gupta, who retired as an IAS officer, burst into tears, saying he had run out of resources to hire lawyers and would rather go to jail than face trial repeatedly — he is an accused in other coal scam cases as well. Special Judge Bharat Parashar had then asked Gupta to reconsider his submission and did not let it go on record.

On Friday, after the verdict was delivered, lawyers on either side said they wanted arguments on the quantum of sentence to start immediately. The judge said he will pronounce the sentence on Monday.

In its chargesheet, the CBI had said that KSSPL had overstated its qualifications to get the coal block allotted to itself, and people in various positions in government had played along to make the allocation. The CBI said the application that the company had filed was an incomplete one and should have been rejected at the initial stage itself. During arguments, the accused denied the allegations levelled against them.

In October 2015, the court ordered framing of charges against Gupta, stating that he “withheld complete and proper information” from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was in charge of the Coal Ministry, on the allocation of the coal block.

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