Rules flouted brazenly in coal blocks allocation: court

This "amounted to an act of criminal mis-conduct by the public servants", the court made the remarks while refusing to accept CBI’s closure report in a coal blocks allocation scam case

Updated - November 16, 2021 09:53 pm IST

Published - October 13, 2014 07:11 pm IST - New Delhi

A labourer unloads coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. File photo

A labourer unloads coal from a supply truck at a yard on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. File photo

The entire process of allocation of coal blocks was done in a “brazen fashion” and officers of the Ministry of Coal abused their positions and acted in “an arbitrary and illegal” manner, a Special Court on Monday observed.

The court said that act of not scrutinising applications of companies or allotting coal blocks in a “clandestine manner” without explaining the reasons as to why these firms have been selected and why the others were not selected “amounted to an act of criminal mis-conduct by the public servants”.

“This act also amounted to allowing misappropriation of country’s natural resources by private firms in furtherance of the criminal conspiracy,” special CBI judge Bharat Parashar said.

The court made the remarks while refusing to accept CBI’s closure report in a coal blocks allocation scam case in which it summoned as accused former Coal Secretary H C Gupta, the then Joint Secretary K S Kropha, and the then Director CA—I Section of Ministry of Coal K C Samaria.

The court also issued summons to Madhya Pradesh-based Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Limited (KSSPL), its Managing Director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia and Chartered Accountant Amit Goyal asking them to appear before it on October 31.

They were summoned as accused for the offences including cheating, criminal conspiracy, and criminal breach of trust by public servant and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The court, in its order, said officers of Ministry of Coal (MOC) and the screening committee members were exercising a dominion over a valuable property i.e. the country’s natural resources and they were duty bound to ensure that it does not stand allocated to unscrupulous persons.

“However for reasons best known to the MOC officers and the Screening Committee, the entire process of allocation of coal blocks was undertaken in such a brazen fashion that even before issuing letters of allotment of coal blocks, no care was taken to at least scrutinise the applications for their eligibility or completeness much less to verify particulars mentioned in the application,” the court said.

The court observed that conduct of Coal Ministry officers involved in the entire process of coal blocks allocation was prima facie arbitrary and illegal.

“Prima facie their actions in acting in an arbitrary and illegal manner i.e. without following any objectivity and transparency in the matter of allocation of such important natural resources of the country amounts to abusing of their position as such public servants and in the process obtaining pecuniary advantage to M/s KSSPL,” it said.

It said it was prima facie clear that non-scrutinising of KSSPL’s application for eligibility and completeness on the part of MOC officers was on account of their active collusion.

“The arbitrary manner in which MOC officers functioned followed by the perfunctory manner in which the Screening Committee headed by Secretary (Gupta), MOC, deliberated upon such an important issue and made its recommendations for allotment of Thesgora-B/Rudrapuri Coal Block to M/s KSSPL, clearly amounted to an act by public servants of not only abusing their position as such public servants but also acting against public interest...,” it said.

It added prima facie offence of criminal conspiracy was made out against accused from the facts of the case.

The court also did not accept the contentions of CBI’s investigating officer (IO) that the application given by KSSPL to MOC seeking allocation of coal blocks were not properly scrutinised by the officers of the ministry as there was shortage of manpower and it was an act of negligence.

The court, in its order, gave the example of selection process of lower divisional clerks (LDCs) in the government saying “if the applications are not scrutinised at the initial stage being voluminous in nature then at least before issuance of actual letters of appointment, particulars of candidates are verified and cross checked from the documents produced by them or by way of police verification“.

The court said Kropha, who was Member Secretary of the Screening Committee, and Gupta, then Chairman of Screening Committee, were responsible to ensure that all necessary precautions as expected to be undertaken to ensure reasonable safeguards were adopted.

Rather, they chose to abuse their official position by not adopting any such reasonable safeguards to protect the public interest, it said.

“They, in fact acted arbitrarily and in a non-objective manner while dealing with such important matter of public concern i.e. the natural resources of the country and thus belied the trust of the people imposed in them,” it said.

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