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Coal Secretary kept Manmohan in the dark, says court

Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was kept in the “dark” by then Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta, who had prima facie violated the law and the trust placed on him on the issue of coal block allocation, a special court said on Thursday.

Ordering framing of charges against Gupta and five others for their alleged role in the allocation of a coal block to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL), the court noted the CBI’s allegations that Gupta had withheld complete and proper information from the Prime Minister Office (PMO) on the matter.

“Thus, when accused H.C. Gupta withheld complete and proper information from the PMO, either in his comments made while submitting the recommendation of the Screening Committee, or in the meeting held with T.K.A. Nair (then Principal Secretary to Prime Minister), so the contention of senior Public Prosecutor that Minister of Coal (Singh) was also kept in the dark by him does not appear to be without force,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar noted in his order.

“Accused H.C. Gupta, thus prima facie acted in violation of the duty so imposed upon him and also in contravention of the directions of law in which such trust was to be discharged,” the court said while posting the case to October 14 for formal framing of charges.

Besides Gupta, the court ordered framing of charges against two senior public servants, K.S. Kropha and K.C. Samria, the firm KSSPL, its managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia and chartered account Amit Goyal.

Kropha was the then Joint Secretary in Ministry of Coal, while Samria was the then Director (Coal Allocation-I) section in the Ministry.

The court ordered putting these six accused on trial for the alleged offences under Section 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) of the IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, observing that prima facie charges were made out against them.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to KSSPL.

In its 56-page order, the court noted that being the then chairman of the screening committee, Gupta was well aware that the Minister for Coal will proceed to accord approval primarily on the basis of the recommendation made by the committee or the comments, if any, made by the Ministry.

“Thus, accused H.C. Gupta, not only in his capacity as Secretary (Coal) but also as chairman, screening committee, abused his position in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy hatched with the other accused persons so as to facilitate allocation of the impugned coal block in favour of the accused company M/s KSSPL in contravention of the guidelines issued by the Ministry of Coal,” it said.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:39:51 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coal-scamcourt-orders-framing-of-charges-against-excoal-secretary-hc-gupta/article7710915.ece

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