A Delhi court on Monday sentenced former union minister Dilip Ray and three others to three years in jail for irregularities in the allocation of a Jharkhand coal block in 1999, in what is known as the coal scam case.
Ray was minister of state (coal) in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government
Special Judge Bharat Parashar also awarded three-year jail term each to two senior officials of the ministry of coal, Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nityanand Gautam, as well as the director of private firm Castron Technologies Limited (CTL), Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla.
The court also imposed a fine of Rs10 lakh on each of them.
The court further imposed Rs60 lakh on CLT and Rs10 lakh on Castron Mining Ltd (CML), also held guilty in the case.
While there have been several convictions in the wide range of coal blocks cases, this is the first time that an NDA minister has been convicted.
It relates to allocation of a coal block in Giridih district of Jharkhand to a private company in violation of guidelines. Ray represented the BJD then; he later joined the BJP only to quit it in the face of these allegations.
Last week, a special CBI court convicted Dilip Ray for his alleged involvement in the coal block allocation scandal. While convicting him, the court observed that Ray “abused his official position”, as his decision of “relaxation of policy without any logical or legal basis amounts to gross abuse of his powers by the minister”.
The CBI had noted that the coal ministry’s guidelines had specifically stated that no company engaged in production of iron and steel or sponge iron could get a captive coal mine if its production capacity was less than 1 metric tonne per annum (MTPA) in opencast mining. However, when private company Castron Technologies Ltd applied for Brahmadiha Coal Block in Giridih, the minister agreed to relax guidelines and allow the grant despite it not being eligible, the CBI found.
The coal blocks allocation cases are among the CBI’s longest running probes, with the agency last registering a fresh FIR in the case in January 2020. It has since 2012 filed multiple chargesheets and even closed many cases for lack of evidence or culpability.