A Special CBI court today sentences former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and ex-coal secretary H C Gupta to three years in jail in a coal scam case involving the allocation the Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to Kolkata-based Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).
Besides Koda and Gupta, the special CBI court judge Bharat Parashar also awarded three-year jail term to former Jharkhand chief secretary A K Basu and a close aide of the ex-chief minister, Vijay Joshi.
The court found the four guilty of indulging in corrupt practices and hatching a criminal conspiracy in the allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to Kolkata-based company, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).
Pronouncing the judgement, the special court said "white collar crimes" were more "dangerous" to the society than ordinary crimes.
Special CBI court judge Bharat Parashar also imposed fines of Rs50 lakh, Rs25 lakh and Rs1 lakh on VISUL, Koda and Gupta, respectively, in the UPA-era coal scam.
Joshi will also have to pay a fine of Rs25 lakh and Basu Rs1 lakh, the court here said.
"White collar crimes are in fact more dangerous to the society than ordinary crimes, firstly, because the financial losses are much higher, and, secondly because of the damages inflicted on public morale.
"The average loss from ordinary crimes such as burglaries, robberies and larcenies etc. may run into few thousand rupees only but the loss which the white collar crimes may cause run not only in lakhs but in crore of rupees," the judge said in his order on the quantum of sentence.
"The convicted persons do not deserve to be extended the benefit of probation," Parashar said.
All four accused were granted statutory bail for a period of two months to enable them to file appeals in the Delhi High Court challenging the verdict.
Koda, however, would be barred from contesting elections in the light of a 2013 judgement of the Supreme Court.
So far, four out of 30 coal block allocation scam cases have been decided by the special court, and 12 people and four companies held guilty.
After the sentence was pronounced, Koda told PTI that he was sad that he could not prove his innocence despite his best efforts and would approach the high court after perusing the order and consulting his lawyers.
On the issue of the Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on him, Koda said his bank accounts have been frozen and he will have to borrow the amount.
"I had put forth my views to prove my innocence. I am sad because of the order and will approach the high court after reading the judgement and consulting my advocates," he said.
The convicts were tried for offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI had said that the firm had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007.