In a case of alleged corruption in coal block allocation, a special court here has ordered framing charges against two Steel Ministry officials, an iron and steel company and its director. They are Goutam Kumar Basak and Soumen Chatterjee of the Joint Plant Committee (JPC), which is the official custodian of data on iron and steel production functioning under the Department of Steel; Prakash Industries Limited (PIL) and its director (Corporate Affairs) A.K. Chaturvedi. The charges of corruption, cheating, forgery and criminal conspiracy will be framed on December 3.
The four have been indicted for alleged conspiracy in preparing false documents, a favourable inspection report and misrepresentation of facts on operation of kilns that led to the Screening Committee recommending allocation of captive coal blocks at Urtan (Madhya Pradesh) and at Vijay Central (Chhattisgarh) for PIL.
The CBI case is that PIL, which was allotted a coal block at Chotia in Chhattisgarh in 2003 for its steel plant at Champa in the same State, applied for another block in 2007, claiming it was needed for expansion of the plant capacity from 8 to 12 lakh tonnes per annum (LTPA). The CBI alleged that according to returns filed before Central Excise, PIL had produced only 2.04 LTPA of sponge iron at Champa and this figure was proportionate to its production capacity. The Steel Ministry forwarded the application to the Screening Committee, which sought verification of the capacity at PIL’s sponge iron plant.
Meanwhile, the Central Vigilance Commission also received complaints of black marketing of coal by PIL, and also against the JPC report. In its charge sheet, the CBI alleged that PIL filed false and fabricated copies of Central Excise, attested by notary, showing inflated production figures for the period from December 2007 to March 2008. When the Ministry ordered physical verification, Mr. Basak and Mr. Chatterjee visited the plant on September 4, 2008, and submitted a report the following day which, the CBI alleged, contained inflated production figures and falsely mentioned that four kilns were operating, when in reality only two were functional then. On the basis of inflated production figures and bogus reports submitted by PIL and later by Mr. Basak and Mr. Chatterjee, the Screening Committee allotted the captive coal block at Urtan and Vijay Central to PIL, the agency said. The CBI alleged that PIL had mined coal from Chotia in excess and diverted approximately 50 per cent of it in the black market. By diverting around 2.27 lakh tonnes of coal in black market (approximately at Rs. 1,000 per tonne), the company allegedly earned a profit of about Rs. 22.7 crores. Hind Energy & Coal Benefication (India), which had a washery at Bilaspur, Chhattisgarh, had a major role in diverting coal to the black market, the CBI said.
“Prima facie, there is sufficient evidence on record that in order to support the claim of PIL for allotment of the Vijay Central coal block, A.K. Chaturvedi on behalf of PIL deliberately fabricated and manipulated facts in respect of the production capacity of sponge iron and operation of the kilns…In the first look, there is sufficient evidence on record that Goutam Kumar Basak and Soumen Chatterjee, being public servants, in order to support the false claim of PIL, prepared a false inspection report of physical verification of the plant of PIL by showing inflated figures of production of sponge iron and wrongly reported that four kilns were in operation…In the first look, the collusion of Goutam Kumar Basak and Soumen Chatterjee with A.K. Chaturvedi and PIL is being established in preparation of false documents, inspection report and misrepresentation of facts pertaining to the operation of kilns,” Special Judge Jain wrote in his order.