March 30, 2016 12:42:52 am
A former Prime Minister, a former Chief Minister, a member of Parliament, and two former Coal Secretaries are among those named as accused in the alleged coal blocks scam that rocked the UPA 2 government. The CAG estimated the loss to the nation at Rs 1.86 lakh crore, and the Supreme Court declared all coal block allocations since 1993 illegal. On Monday, a special court delivered the first verdict in the case, and held Jharkhand Ispat Private Ltd and its two directors, R C Rungta and R S Rungta, guilty of criminal conspiracy and cheating. A look at the alleged coal scam and related cases that the special court is currently hearing.
What is the so-called coal scam?
It refers to alleged irregularities in the allocation of 194 coal blocks to private entities which, the CAG estimated, resulted in a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore to the exchequer. It was alleged that private companies made gains due to the lack of bidding between 2004 and 2006. Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had charge of the Coal Ministry in 2006.
When did CBI come into the picture?
BJP leaders Hansraj Ahir and Prakash Javadekar, now ministers in the Narendra Modi government, complained to the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), which in 2012 asked the CBI to investigate the matter. In June 2012, the CBI initiated the investigation into alleged irregularities in the allocation to, and utilization of, coal mines by private companies during 2006-09. That September, it widened its probe, and began investigating the allocation of coal blocks across the country, from 1993.
When was the special court set up?
On July 25, 2014, the Supreme Court appointed Additional Sessions Judge Bharat Parashar to preside over a special court set up to exclusively hold the trial in the alleged coal blocks allocation scam. It also named senior advocate R S Cheema as special prosecutor. The special court is currently hearing 22 cases related to the alleged scam.
What is the status of the cases before the special court?
The most high profile case pertains to the allocation of Talabira coal block in Odisha to the Kumar Mangalam Birla-owned Hindalco. The special court has named Manmohan Singh as an accused in the case. The former PM has challenged the summons issued by Special Judge Parashar in the Supreme court.
The status of the trials in some other key cases are as follows:
* CBI registered the first chargesheet in 2014 against businessman Manoj Kumar Jayaswal. This pertained to alleged irregularities in allocation of Bander coal block in Maharashtra to AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd. Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, his son Devendra Darda, former Coal Minister Santosh Bagrodia, former Coal Secretary H C Gupta, and retired public servant L S Janoti have been named as accused.
In 2015, the CBI filed a second chargesheet against M K Jayaswal in connection with alleged irregularities in the allocation of Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh to JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd. The Dardas and Gupta too are accused, along with then Joint Secretary K S Kropha and another official, K C Samaria.
Jayaswal is also facing prosecution for alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Mahuagarhi coal block in Jharkhand to accused firm JAS Infrastructure Capital Pvt Ltd.
In January, Jayaswal moved a plea before the special court seeking a joint trial in the three cases, stating that the alleged offences relate to the same transaction. The court is hearing the plea.
* One of the most high profile cases involves alleged irregularities in the allocation of Rajhara North block in Jharkhand to accused firm Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda, former Coal Secretary H C Gupta, and seven others have been put on trial. Among those facing prosecution are former Jharkhand Chief Secretary A K Basu, and public servants B K Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh.
The CBI is currently recording evidence against the accused.
* Trial in the case involving Delhi-based Rathi Steel and Power Ltd is in its final stages. Its three top officials — including Managing Director Pradeep Rathi and CEO Udit Rathi — are facing trial for alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Kesla coal block in Chhattisgarh.
The defence has completed its final arguments in the case. The CBI will make rebuttal arguments on April 6.
* CBI had filed a chargesheet in 2014 against Harish Chandra Prasad of Malaxmi Group and Trivikarma Prasad of Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd. It relates to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rampia coal block in Odisha to NPPL. Government officials Gupta, Kropha and Samaria are among the accused.
The court in February heard arguments on charges against the accused. It is likely to pass the order on framing of charges in April.
* Gupta, Kropha and Samaria are also facing trial in the allocation of Thesogora Rudrapuri block to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd. KSSPL Managing Director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia and chartered accountant Amit Goyal too are facing trial.
The court is recording prosecution evidence in the case.
* Delhi-based Pushp Steels and Mining Pvt Ltd was put on trial in February for alleged irregularities in the allocation of Brahmapuri block in Chhattisgarh.
The case is now adjourned for admission and denial documents.
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