Decision on coal allocation made by Manmohan Singh: Ex-coal secretary

New Delhi, Aug 24 (IANS) Former coal secretary Harish Chandra Gupta, who was last week granted bail in four different cases of coal block allocation, told the court that the final decision on making allocation in Jharkhand’s Rajhara North mine was taken by then prime minister Manmohan Singh.

Singh was also the Union coal minister at the time and had the ultimate power to allocate coal blocks, he said.

Gupta’s defence counsel, B.S. Mathur, told IANS that Gupta being the chairman of the screening committee was required to forward the recommendations to the coal minister. He added that the screening committee was only a recommending body.

Mathur said that Gupta had performed his duty as per the guidelines laid down by the government and there was no mala fide intention on his part in the entire process of coal block allocation.

He added that Gupta has rendered a long service of more than 33 years with impeccable credentials and was known for his integrity.

Gupta is facing trial in nine separate matters.

Interestingly, the Central Bureau of Investigation has chargesheeted him in three different matters, but on the basis of further investigations, special judge Bharat Parashar had summoned him on nine dates to face trial in nine different cases.

Last week he was granted bail in four coal block allocation cases — Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh to JLD Yavatmal Energy Ltd, Mahuagarhi coal block in Jharkhand to JAS Infrastructure and Power Ltd, coal block of Rampia in Odisha to Navbharat Power Pvt Ltd and Maharashtra’s Bander coal block to AMR Iron and Steel Private Ltd.

The court on August 10 issued summons to Gupta and others, asking them to appear on September 4 while hearing a matter pertaining to allocation of the Lohara (east) coal block in Maharashtra to Nagpur-based Grace Industries Ltd (GIL).

Gupta was first summoned as an accused in the coal block allocation case pertaining to allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) on October 13 last year in which the court has rejected closure report of CBI. He was granted bail on October 31 last year.

The CBI has chargesheeted him in three separate cases — Jharkhand’s Rajhara North coal block allocation to Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL), allocation of Jharkhand’s Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block to Jindal Steel and Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron Pvt Ltd (GSIPL), and Madhya Pradesh’s Brahmapuri coal block to Pushp Steels and Mining Pvt. Ltd (PSMPL).

In all three cases, the court has granted him bail. However, he had been put on trial in Jharkhand’s Rajhara North coal block allocation to Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd after court had framed charges against him on July 31.

Beside Gupta, two senior coal ministry officials, K.S. Kropha and K.C. Samria, are facing trial in four different cases and Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda with his son Devendra Darda is being tried in three separate cases related to coal block allocations till date.

Till now, the CBI has filed reports in 15 cases in the coal block case. Gupta is being tried in nine of these 15 cases.

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