Observing that the arbitrary allocation of a coal block in Giridih, Jharkhand, in 1999 caused huge financial loss to the nation, a Delhi court awarded a three-year prison sentence to former Union minister Dilip Ray.
Besides Ray, who was Minister of State for Coal in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, Special Judge Bharat Parashar handed three-year jail terms to two senior officials of the ministry at that time — Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam — and Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL) director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla.
While sentencing Ray, the special CBI court observed that he had “abused his official position” as his decision of “relaxation of policy without any logical or legal basis amounts to gross abuse of his powers…”
The case pertains to the allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in Giridih, Jharkhand, to CTL in 1999.
Ray was convicted along with five others: CTL; its director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla; two senior Coal ministry officials Pradip Kumar Banerjee (then additional secretary) and Nitya Nand Gautam (then advisor, projects); and Castron Mining Ltd.
The court imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on Ray, Rs 2 lakh on Banerjee and Gautam, and Rs 60 lakh on Agarwalla. It also imposed a fine of Rs 60 lakh on CTL and Rs 10 lakh on CML.
In response to the defence argument that no loss was caused to anyone in the matter “since almost the entire amount of extracted coal was surrendered to the government”, Special Judge Bharat Parashar, who passed Monday’s order, said “non-availability of sufficient raw material such as coal has in fact resulted in the lack of infrastructural/industrial development of the country”.
The court also observed that had the coal block been allocated to the deserving applicant, it would have added to the industrial development of the country.
“…It will be suffice to state that arbitrary allocation of coal blocks as has been seen in the present matter to unscrupulous persons who never intended to establish any end use project in itself has caused huge loss to the nation which is difficult to be computable in monetary terms,” the order read.
The court said the case involved the commission of white collar crimes by people occupying high positions. “Such 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 court said.
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