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Coal scam: former Coal Secretary granted bail

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Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and four others, including a senior public servant, were on Friday granted bail by a Special Court in a coal block allocation scam case.

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar granted the relief to Gupta, serving public servant K S Kropha, who was a former Joint Director in the Ministry of Coal, Vishwas Sawakhande, earlier Director in the Directorate of Geology and Mining in Maharashtra government and directors of accused firm Grace Industries Ltd —— Mukesh Gupta and Seema Gupta.

The court enlarged them on bail on a personal bond of Rs one lakh each with one surety of the like amount.

“Keeping in view the facts and circumstances of the case coupled with the submissions made, I am of the considered opinion that interest of justice will be met if the accused are granted bail on a personal bond of Rs one lakh each with one surety for the like amount,” the judge said.

The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Lohara (East) coal block in Maharashtra to Nagpur-based Grace Industries Ltd (GIL).

During the hearing, all these accused appeared in the court in pursuance to the summons issued against them and sought bail contending that they have cooperated during the investigation and there were no apprehensions that they would tamper with the evidence or flee from justice.

Bail opposed

Senior Public Prosecutor Sanjay Kumar opposed their bail pleas, saying the accused, being influential, can tamper with the evidence or flee from justice if released on bail.

The investigating officer (IO) told the court that he would supply the copies of the documents filed along with CBI’s final report to the accused today itself.

The court has now fixed the matter for September 21 for scrutiny of documents.

The court had earlier summoned GIL and these five individuals as accused in the case for the alleged offences punishable under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) read with 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant) and 420 (cheating) of IPC and under relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Earlier, the court had asked CBI to conduct further probe into the alleged role and collusion between public servants and company officials in the case in which the agency has filed a charge sheet against GIL and one of its directors Mukesh Gupta for alleged offence of cheating under IPC.

While directing further probe in the matter, the court had observed that functioning of the then officials of Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) “does not appear to be above board“.

The court had noted that when there were specific remarks by then Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao that GIL was “not eligible” for allocation of Lohara (East) coal block in Maharashtra, the PMO officials should have highlighted it before the file was submitted to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was holding Coal Ministry portfolio at that time.

It had also noted that then Coal Secretary Gupta had since retired from government service and there was no need to get sanction to prosecute him under section 19 of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

According to CBI, the 34th Screening Committee had allotted Lohara (East) coal block jointly to M/s GIL and to M/s Murli Agro Products Pvt Ltd and the letter of allotment was issued on June 27, 2008.

CBI had charge-sheeted the firm and one of its directors saying they had falsely misrepresented the facts to bag the coal block.

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