TAMIL NADU

Some violators of OSA have escaped prosecution: Judge

CHENNAI, DEC. 27. Acquitting all the accused in the `coal import deal' case, the Special Judge-II, Mr. S. S. P. Darwesh, today said that from the investigating officer's evidence, it was clear ``some miscreants in government departments, who have violated the Official Secrets Act, have escaped prosecution in leaking out the confidential information''.

The court said a few portions or scripts written by the former PWD Secretary, Mr. V. Sundaram, `star witness' in the case, seeking either clarification or alerting the TNEB, ``were picked up from here and there in the files, which appear to project as if there has been a gross violation of normal procedure''.

The judge said that it was ``really amazing to note that how those selected scripts have been stolen from the files and handed over to (the Janata Party president) Dr. Subramanian Swamy inspite of the fact that those are government files containing confidential official matters covered by the OSA''.

The mischief-mongers had made available the confidential documents which, as admitted by Mr. Sundaram himself, were nothing but clarifications sought by him, to Dr.Swamy and the Janata Party leader or any prudent person, who read such scripts without going through the entire file, would be led into believing that the office of the government was misused by Secretaries and Ministers.

``The miscreants of the government department should be crushed under iron heels for creating doubts in the minds of the public at large''.

Mr.Sundaram himself explained that the procedure was correctly followed at board meetings and all his doubts and objections were properly clarified by the board chairman to his full satisfaction and the alleged loss was baseless and fanciful. The former Secretary himself had been recommending coal import from the beginning.

All witnesses categorically deposed that Indian coal was of poor quality. Transporting it from collieries to the thermal stations together with its cost exceeded the imported coal's cost. No witness, including the investigating officer (I.O.), was able to place any evidence to show there were corrupt practices in the transaction. The I.O. himself admitted he had never examined any foreign supplier and there was no evidence to show any misuse of power or any illegal gain to anyone or corruption. Also, prosecution witnesses had corroborated the points that there was coal shortage. The supply by the Coal India created many problems because of which coal had to be imported and the decision was taken only in public interest.

Evidence placed before the court would show that the import was as per rules and regulations and conditions followed scrupulously. The Union Government permitted the import, waiving import duty and bringing coal import under the Open General Licence. ``When circumstances are like this, where is the question of conspiracy?'', the judge asked.

There was absolutely no record to show when the `missing pages' (containing Mr.Sundaram's objections) were removed. Mr.Sundaram had made an endorsement regarding the missing pages in a page. Only a photostat copy of the said page with note was filed. The top half page was the original. But the bottom half page differed from it. Despite the court direction, the original bottom half page was not produced. So, the note had been written for the purpose of giving complaint.

The court also said the conduct of Mr. Sundaram as a witness spoke volumes as per the Evidence Act. He was stating different reasons at different times to suit his convenience.

Many vital documents, which ought to have been marked by prosecution, were marked by defence to prove the innocence of the accused. No decision was proved to have been taken with an intention of causing losses to the TNEB or for personal gain of the accused or for the suppliers' pecuniary advantage. On the other hand, strict specifications were laid down, specifications discussed with all tenderers and penalty clause was introduced unanimously at the board meeting, only to ensure that good quality coal was imported, the court observed.

The judge also said the so-called interim police report clearly showed that investigation was incomplete.