New Delhi: A special CBI court on Tuesday convicted former Union Minister Dilip Ray and two other former official of the Coal Ministry in a coal scam case.
The accused were convicted for criminal conspiracy and other offences pertaining to the allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in Giridih in Jharkhand to the Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL) in 1999.
Here’s a look back at the case as it unfolded:
Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar had framed charges of cheating, criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust against Ray, former Coal Ministry officials Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam, Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL), its director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining Ltd (CML).
During the scam, Ray was Minister of State for Coal in the the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Banerjee was the then Additional Secretary in MoC and Gautam the Advisor (Projects) there.
The court fixed July 11, 2017 to begin the trial after the CBI submitted that Ray was a sitting MLA in Odisha and as per Supreme Court directions, the trial should be conducted on day-to-day basis.
In its charge sheet, CBI had said that Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL) had applied in May 1998 to the Coal Ministry for allotment of Brahmadiha coal block and it was stated in the application that extracted coal shall be used by the firm for washery and power generation.
When the application came up for consideration, The Coal India Ltd (CIL) sought a report on the viability of coal block on various aspects from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL).
On the basis of CMPDIL’s report of August 1998, the CIL conveyed to ministry that as the coal block was an abandoned mine area and was full of water, it could be dangerous to adjoining properties of Central Coal Fields Ltd (CCL) where coal mining activities were being undertaken through underground mining method.
The report also said that mining coal from the block would be against safety norms and the mining statutes, the central investigating agency said.
It alleged that when the report came to Nityanand Gautam (the then senior officer of the Coal Ministry), he wrote to CIL seeking further clarification. But the CIL reiterated its earlier stand and also highlighted that the block was not in the list of identified captive coal blocks to be allocated.
On the basis of CIL’s comment, Gautam proposed that it would not be possible to allot the coal mine to CTL, it said.
The CBI said that the file was sent to Ray’s office on April 23, 1999 and on May 12, 1999, CTL submitted a fresh representation to Ray stating that their application may be considered expeditiously.
On May 13, 1999, the file came to the then Coal secretary from Ray’s office with an endorsement that in light of representation received from CTL, the case may be re-examined.
When the file again reached Gautam’s desk, he made a note in which he “made a complete u-turn from his observations” given in the earlier note.
It alleged that on the basis of Gautam’s note, the file came to the then additional secretary, Coal Ministry Pradip Kumar Banerjee who approved it, after which the 14th screening committee recommended CTL for allocation of the coal block subject to relaxation of guidelines by the ministry.
On the basis of the approval accorded by Ray, a letter of allotment of Brahmadiha coal block in favour of CTL was issued on September 1, 1999 by the Ministry.
CBI has in its charge sheet said that despite strong objection raised by CIL and CMPDIL regarding allotment of the block, the screening committee and Ray proceeded ahead to allot the block to CTL.
It also alleged that after allocation of the block, CTL started extracting coal illegally even without grant of any mine opening permission by the concerned authorities.
As per a family settlement, all the shares of CTL stood transferred in favour of Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla and his family members while the block so allocated stood transferred in favour of another firm Castron Mining Ltd (CML) of PK Agarwalla (former BJP Rajya Sabha member)
CBI also alleged that CML was also involved in illegal extraction of coal from the block without signing of a mining lease or obtaining mine opening permission.