If honest officials are "punished on mere technical grounds and not corruption then they will be demoralised, decisions will not be taken. This not in the nation's interest," he told NDTV in an exclusive interview. "I believe if mistakes are bona fide then forgive and forget but if mistakes are mala fide then don't spare him," he added.
Mr Gupta and three former bureaucrats were convicted by a special court on Friday. The case was a first coal scam case in which senior government officials were found guilty. The 69-year-old was the Coal Secretary under the Congress-led UPA government. The officer, who chaired a screening committee that cleared at least 40 cases of coal mining rights, had been accused of playing a leading role in the massive swindle.
Mr Gupta said then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given "final approval" in the case - a claim the Central Bureau of Investigation had dismissed. Dr Singh, the investigating agency said, was kept in the dark and misled, even though he was heading the coal ministry at the time.
A detailed order of the special court had said the three bureaucrats, led by Mr Gupta, had withheld all the aspects of non-compliance with the guidelines from the former Prime Minister, "knowing fully well that he was Minister of Coal and will proceed to approve allocation of various coal blocks on the basis of recommendation of Screening Committee only". The order had further added, "They thus certainly exploited this situation by abusing their offices".
The BJP had repeatedly said Dr Singh, whose personal integrity is usually exempt from criticism, cannot escape blame for the various scams that took place in his watch. In February, PM Modi had made a jibe at him, saying, "there is not a single black mark against him despite all the corruption. Only 'Doctor Saab' knows how to bathe with a raincoat in the bathroom".
Mr Gupta had also made headlines when he tearfully told the court that he would rather face trial from inside jail than be out on bail since he could no longer afford his legal defence. He later withdrew his application to cancel bail.
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