The Jharkhand coal scam had hit the headlines in 2012 after an audit report by Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG) revealed that the country lost up to Rs 1.86 lakh crore due to inefficient coal blocks allocation. The number of allocated blocks between 1993 and 2010 stood at 194. The CAG report said that for over a decade, mining rights were allotted to private firms at very low prices. Following the report, the Supreme Court cancelled the coal blocks allocations in 2014. Thereafter, the Lok Sabha passed a bill paving way for fresh auction of the coal blocks de-allocated by the court.
HC Gupta, who was the Coal Secretary for two years under the Congress-led UPA government, was accused of playing a leading role in the massive fraud and has been accused in eight cases. He was convicted along with two other former bureaucrats in a case related to the allocation of a coal mining block in Madhya Pradesh to a private company in May this year. It was the first coal scam case in which senior government officials were held guilty.
The CBI said that HC Gupta, who was chairman of the screening committee, had allegedly concealed facts from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who at that time headed the Coal Ministry too, that Jharkhand had not recommended Kolkata-based firm VISUL for allocation of a coal block.
Madhu Koda and HC Gupta in another case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand. The case also involves industrialist Naveen Jindal and former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao as accused.
Along with Mr Koda and Mr Gupta, three others have also been convicted for irregularities in the allocation. They are ex-Jharkhand chief secretary AK Basu, Madhu Koda's close aide Vijay Joshi and VISUL under section 120B (criminal conspiracy) of Indian Penal Code and section 13(1)(d) of Prevention of Corruption Act, which entails maximum punishment of seven years.
(With Inputs From PTI)