Former coal secretary HC Gupta was sentenced to three-year imprisonment in a coal block allocation scam case on Wednesday by Delhi court. The case is related to irregularities in the allocation of Moira and Madhujore (North and South) coal blocks in Bengal to Vikash Metals and Power Limited (VMPL).
Two other bureaucrats - KS Kropha and KC Samria - were given jail term for three years. Vikas Patni, MD of Vikash Metals and Power Limited, and its authorised signatory Anand Mallick were also sentenced to a 4-year jail term and a fine of Rs 1 lakh was imposed on the company.
Mr Gupta's counsel had pleaded that he was 70 years old and suffering from various ailments. He only had his pension to support his family, the lawyer had said.
Understanding the coal scam and former coal secretary HC Gupta's role in it:
The coal scam had hit the headlines in 2012 after an audit by the national auditor revealed that the country has lost up to Rs 1.86 lakh crore due to inefficient allocation of coal blocks. The auditor said for over a decade, mining rights were allotted to private firms at low prices. In 2014, the Supreme Court cancelled the allocations.
HC Gupta, before retiring in 2008, was the Coal Secretary for two years under the Congress-led UPA government. As the head of the screening committee that allocated at least 40 coal mining rights, he was accused of playing a leading role in a massive swindle which was dubbed as coal scam. Mr Gupta had said that 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.
The former top bureaucrat was accused of not following a transparent auctioning system and causing losses running into crores to the taxpayer and was booked in as many as eight cases.
In May, Mr Gupta 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. It was the first coal scam case in which senior government officials were held guilty.