Coal scam: former coal secretary, 4 others granted bail

The Patiala House Court in Delhi today granted bail to former coal secretary H C Gupta and four others, including a senior public servant, in a case pertaining to irregularities in the allocation of coal blocks.

The case pertains to the alleged irregularities in the allocation of the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand to two Jindal group companies - Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Ltd (GSIPL).

Gupta had, in his arguments two days ago, informed the special court that sanction to prosecute him in a coal scam case was necessary as allegations levelled against him related to work done by him in discharge of his official duty.

The court, however, noted that 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.

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar also granted bail to serving public servant K S Kropha, who was a former joint director in the coal ministry, Vishwas Sawakhande, who was 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 allowed the accused to go on bail on a personal bond of Rs1 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 Rs1 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.

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 accused contended that they have cooperated during the investigation and there were no apprehensions that they would tamper with the evidence or flee from justice.

The court has now fixed the matter for 21 September 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 CBI has filed charges against GIL and one of its directors Mukesh Gupta for alleged offence of cheating under IPC.

The court also 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.