In the first verdict to emerge in the coal block allocation scam, a special court in Delhi today convicted Jharkhand Ispat Pvt Ltd (JIPL) and two of its directors of conspiring to forge documents for illegally obtaining mining blocks, cheating the exchequer of crores of rupees.
Special judge Bharat Parashar found JIPL and its directors, R S Rungta and R C Rungta, guilty of offences under sections 120B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code. They were taken into custody on the spot. The arguments on their sentencing will begin on 31 March.
The special court was set up to exclusively deal with all cases related to the irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks.
The case pertains to the allocation of Jharkhand's North Dhadu coal block to JIPL and other companies. On 21 March last year, the court had framed charges of conspiracy, forgery and cheating against the convicts. All the accused pleaded not guilty, and denied the charges levelled against them by the Central Bureau of Investigation.
However, the court acquitted R S Rungta of charges under sections 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating) and 471 (using a forged document as genuine) of IPC, and R C Rungta of the alleged offences of 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 and 471 of IPC.
''I am convicting you (Rungtas) for the offences under sections 120B and 420 of IPC and the company is convicted under sections 120B read with 420 of IPC,'' the judge said.
Offences under section 420 (cheating) of IPC entails jail terms of up to seven years.
The court had in March last year framed charges against them for the offences punishable under sections 120B read with 420, 467, 468 and 471 of IPC.
They had pleaded not guilty and claimed trial, while refuting the submissions made against them by CBI.
On 23 December last year, the court had dismissed R S Rungta's plea to summon former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and ex-minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao as defence witnesses in the case.
The businessmen were granted bail on 14 January last year on a personal bond of Rs1 lakh each and a surety of the like amount.
In its chargesheet, the CBI had alleged that JIPL had ''grossly misrepresented'' facts before the ministry of steel (MoS) and ministry of coal (MoC) to inflate their claim – thereby inducing MoC officers and the screening committee to allocate the coal block to them.
JIPL and three other firms –Electro Steel Casting Ltd, Adhunik Alloys and Power Ltd and Pawanjay Steel and Power Ltd – were allocated the coal block by the 27th and 30th screening committees, it added.
The CBI charged the committee with making no attempt to verify the claims made by the firms, and said that the MoS hadn't developed any method to assess the competency of the companies. The MoC's records related to the case were missing, it added.
The coal allocation scam, which had thrown the former UPA government into a major controversy, pertains to the ''inefficient''?allocation of the country's coal deposits to public sector entities and private companies between 2004 and 2009.