New Delhi: A Special CBI court here today sentenced former Union Minister and ex-Odisha MLA Dilip Ray to three years of imprisonment in the Jharkhand coal scam case.
The court had on October 14 reserved the verdict on quantum of punishment for pronouncement on October 26 (today).
Ray was the Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 1999. The case pertains to allocation of 105.153 hectares of non-nationalised and abandoned coal mining area in Jharkhand’s Giridih district in favour of Castron Technologies Limited by 14th Screening Committee of the Ministry of Coal in 1999.
Special Judge Bharat Parashar also awarded three years term each to two senior officials of the Ministry of Coal at that time — Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam — and Castron Technologies Limited’s Director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla. The CBI had earlier urged the court to award life imprisonment to Ray and other convicts to send a message to the society as white-collar crimes were on a rise.
The convicts had requested the court to take a lenient view in respect of their old age and prior clean antecedents. On October 6, the court had convicted them in the case, noting that they conspired together beyond shadows of all reasonable doubts to procure allocation of the coal block.
Besides Ray, two former senior officials of the Ministry of Coal — Pradip Kumar Banerjee, the then Additional Secretary and Nitya Nand Gautam, former advisor (Projects), Castron Technologies Limited, its director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining Limited have also been found guilty.
The court held them guilty of the offences under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Besides this, Castron Technologies Limited, Mahesh Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining Limited were also held guilty for the offence under 379 (punishment for theft) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
As many as 51 witnesses were examined in the case. The prosecution had argued that the facts and circumstances of the case clearly pointed to the hatching of a criminal conspiracy by the private parties and the public servants involved in the process of allocation of impugned coal block.
It was submitted that Brahmadiha coal block was not a nationalised coal mine and was not included by CIL or its subsidiary companies in the identified list of captive coal blocks to be allocated by the Ministry of Coal.
Senior Public Prosecutor A.P. Singh had told the court that as Brahmadiha coal block was not an identified captive coal block to be allocated to private parties, even the screening committee was not competent to consider its allocation to any company much less to Castron Technologies Limited.
The prosecution further stated that Dilip Ray had himself approved the guidelines of the Coal Ministry that no coal block shall be allocated for captive mining to a company engaged in production of iron and steel or sponge iron if the annual production capacity is less than one MTPA in opencast mining but in the case of Castron Technologies Limited, he agreed to relax the said guidelines so as to extend undue benefits to the private parties involved.