Coal scam: HC suspends former public servant’s 3-yr sentence, asks CBI to respond to appeal

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday suspended the three-year sentence of former public servant K C Samria, who has challenged his conviction and jail term in a case related to irregularities in coal block allocation in Chhattisgarh.

The high court issued notice to the CBI and sought its response on Samria’s appeal challenging a trial court’s judgement convicting and sentencing him in the case.

It admitted the appeal and listed in the category of regular matter for further hearing along with connected appeals of other convicts.

“Keeping in view that the appellant was never arrested during the trial and keeping in mind that the co-accused public servants have already been granted bail by a co-ordinate bench of this court, I am of the opinion that the sentencing order of the trial court qua the appellant shall remain suspended till the pendency of the appeal,” Justice Tushar Rao Gedela said.

The CBI was represented through its counsel Tarannum Cheema in the case.

On August 16, another bench of the high court had suspended the three-year sentence of co-accused and ex-coal secretary H C Gupta and former public servant K S Kropha and granted them bail till pendency of their appeals.

The high court has also issued notices and sought responses from the CBI on their appeals challenging their conviction and sentence in the case.

The trial court, in July, had convicted and awarded three-year jail terms to Gupta, Kropha and Samria in the case.

They were, however, granted bail for 45 days by the trial court to enable them to challenge their conviction and punishment before the high court.

Besides, the trial court had also convicted and sentenced to four-year imprisonment ex-Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, his son Devender and businessman Manoj Kumar Jayaswal in the case.

After spending two days in jail, the Dardas and Jayaswal were granted interim bail by the high court on July 28.

The high court had also issued notice and sought CBI’s reply on their appeals challenging the conviction and sentence and also seeking suspension of their punishment.

The trial court had also imposed a fine of Rs 50 lakh on JLD Yavatmal Energy Private Limited, which was also convicted in the case.

It had imposed a fine of Rs 15 lakh each on the Dardas and Jayaswal. The other three convicts were directed to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 each.

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During the hearing on Tuesday, advocate Rahul Tyagi, appearing for Samria, said the convict has already deposited the fine amount of Rs 20,000 imposed by the trial court.

He said Samria was never arrested during the trial and urged the court to suspend the jail term, saying the sentence of other co-accused public servants has already been suspended by the high court.

In its verdict, the trial court had said, “The present case relates to allocation of a coal block. The convicts had obtained the said block by committing cheating with the government of India. Prosecution is justified in saying that the loss to the nation was huge.”

In the 13th conviction in the coal scam, which rocked the erstwhile Manmohan Singh government, the trial court had on July 13 held the seven accused guilty under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The trial court had on November 20, 2014 refused to accept a closure report submitted by the CBI in the case and directed the agency to investigate it afresh, stating that Vijay Darda had “misrepresented” facts in his letters to the then prime minister Manmohan Singh, who held the coal portfolio.

Vijay Darda, the chairperson of the Lokmat Group, had done so to secure the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh for JLD Yavatmal Energy Private Limited, it had said.

The offence of cheating was committed by private parties in furtherance of a conspiracy hatched between them and public servants, it had said.

The Lokmat Group is a multi-platform media company based in Maharashtra.

JLD Yavatmal Energy Private Limited was allotted the Fatehpur (East) coal block by the 35th Screening Committee.

The CBI had alleged in its FIR that JLD Yavatmal had wrongfully concealed the previous allocation of four coal blocks to its group companies between 1999 and 2005. However, in a closure report filed later, it said no undue benefit was extended to JLD Yavatmal by the coal ministry in the allocation of coal blocks.

The CAG initially estimated that the coal scam caused a massive loss of Rs 10.6 lakh crore to the exchequer, but its final report tabled in Parliament put the figure at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.

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