Former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had no reason to presume that then Coal Secretary H C Gupta recommended a non-compliant private firm for coal block allocation in Madhya Pradesh, a special court here has said.
Special Judge Bharat Parashar, who convicted Gupta for irregularities in allocation of Madhya Pradesh based Thesgora- B Rudrapuri coal block to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL), noted that the former coal secretary made "dishonest misrepresentation" before Singh.
Singh, who had to act only upon the recommendations of the Screening Committee of which Gupta was the chairman, was then holding the portfolio of Ministry of Coal (MOC) besides others.
The court said there was no reason for the Prime Minister to presume that the guidelines had not been complied with.
It said it was "apparent" that Singh proceeded to consider the Screening Committee recommendation on the assumption that the applications must have been checked in MOC for their eligibility and completeness or that the guidelines must have been duly followed even by the Committee.
"While forwarding the file to Prime Minister as Minister of Coal for approval of the recommendation of the Screening Committee, it was nowhere mentioned by any of the MOC officers, much less by Gupta, that the applications have not been checked for their eligibility and completeness," it said.
Gupta, who was the Coal Secretary from December 31, 2005 to November 2008, then joint secretary K S Kropha and then director K C Samaria in the Coal Ministry were held guilty by the court for irregularities in allocating the coal block to the firm.
CBI seeks 7 years jail for H C Gupta
The CBI has urged the court to award the maximum punishment of seven years jail term to H C Gupta for cheating and criminal conspiracy in allocation of a coal block to a private firm.
Senior public prosecutor V K Sharma told the court that the convicts had committed an economic offence and urged it not to grant any leniency to them.
He submitted that economic offences were graver than the other crimes and should be dealt with firmly.
The convicts, however, sought leniency, citing old age and no previous conviction in any other case.
On May 19, the court had convicted Gupta, Kropha and Samaria. It also held the firm and its managing director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia guilty of the offences, including cheating.
The court, however, acquitted chartered accountant Amit Goyal in the case.
The CBI had in October 2012 lodged an FIR in the matter, but on March 27, 2014 it filed a closure report. The court rejected the closure report on October 13, 2014 and summoned Gupta and others as accused.
The CBI had alleged that the firm had misrepresented its net worth and the existing capacity, adding that the state government had also not recommended the firm for the allocation of any coal block.
Ten more coal scam cases are pending against Gupta and the proceedings are going on separately. The Supreme Court had last year dismissed his plea seeking a joint trial in all these cases.
(With PTI inputs)