Former Minister of State for Coal Santosh Bagrodia, ex-Coal Secretary H C Gupta and a Coal Ministry official prima facie committed criminal misconduct and facilitated a private firm to unlawfully obtain a coal block, a special court said on Friday.
The court’s observation came as it asked CBI to further probe a coal blocks allocation scam case in which the agency has already chargesheeted Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, his son Devendra Darda, Director of AMR Iron and Steel Pvt Ltd Manoj Jayaswal and the firm, as accused.
“It is thus prima facie clear from the overall facts and circumstances of the case that Ministry of Coal (MOC) officers namely L S Janoti, section officer…H C Gupta, Secretary MOC and Chairman Screening Committee alongwith…Santosh Bagrodia, prima facie committed the offence of criminal misconduct under section 13(1)(d) read with section 13(2) of Prevention of Corruption Act,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.
He noted that these three persons had allegedly entered into a conspiracy with private parties in the allocation of Bander coal block in Maharashtra to AMR Iron and Steel Pvt and “facilitated” the firm to obtain the block unlawfully.
“In fact there prima facie appears to be a joint and concerted effort on his (Gupta) part alongwith L S Janoti and Santosh Bagrodia, the then MOS (Coal), in facilitating M/s AMR to obtain allocation of impugned coal block,” it said.
“Santosh Bagrodia was also well aware that equity holders of M/s AMR had been earlier also allotted a number of coal blocks,” the court said.
Silence on Bagrodia’s part in not highlighting the true and actual facts on the file and “rather forwarding the file to Prime Minister Office by simply putting his signatures clearly appears to be a conscious decision.”
On Gupta’s role, it said he “consciously helped” AMR in suppressing the crucial information from the government and facilitated misappropriation of natural resources.
The court also said MOC officers, the screening committee and Bagrodia “prima facie acted in a manner which was detrimental to public interest and thereby in the process allowed M/s AMR to misappropriate important nationalised natural resources of the country i.e. coal.”
Even officers of the Prime Minister Office (PMO) who dealt with the matter did not pay attention to facts and proceeded on the basis of MOC’s noting in the case, it said.
Janoti allegedly prepared a “mis-leading note” on the issue relating to the coal block allocation which, in the overall facts and circumstances, appeared to be a deliberate move on his part to benefit AMR and its directors.
The court has now fixed the matter for filing of progress report of further investigation on February 13.