Bhubaneswar: In the wake of the quantum of punishment pronounced by the Special CBI Court in New Delhi today and sentenced former Union Coal Minister Dilip Ray and other convicts to three years of imprisonment, let’s revisit the history of this coal scam case.
This high profile scam case pertains to allocation of 105.153 hectares of abandoned coal mining area in Giridih district of Jharkhand in 1999. The abandoned coal block of Jharkhand had been allotted to Kolkata-based Castron Technologies Limited (CTL).
Prior to CBI took over the probe, the Central Vigilance Commission (CVC) had examined the allegation of corruption in this coal block allocation. After finding adequate incriminating materials in this malpractice, regular cases were registered.
It was submitted by the central agency that Ray had himself approved the guidelines of Ministry of Coal that stated that no coal block should be allocated for captive mining to a company engaged in production of iron and steel or sponge iron if the annual production capacity is less than 1 MTPA in opencast mining. On the contrary, Ray, in the capacity of the then Minister of State (MoS) of Coal, had agreed to relax the guidelines in favour of CTL so as to extend undue benefits to the private party.
On 26 April, 2017, the charges had been framed after all the accused had pleaded not guilty and claimed trial following which the Special CBI Court had fixed July 11 that year to begin the trial after the CBI had submitted that Ray was a sitting MLA of Odisha Legislative Assembly (OLA) and the trial should be done on a day-to-day basis as per the Supreme Court directives.
The CBI charge sheet mentioned that CTL had applied for allotment of Brahmadiha coal block in May 1998. CTL’s application had stated that extracted coal shall be used by it for washery and power generation.
When CTL’s application had come up for consideration, Coal India’s views had been sought and Coal India had further sought a report on the viability of coal block from the Central Mine Planning and Design Institute Limited (CMPDIL). CMPDIL had submitted its report in August 1998.
Basing on CMPDIL’s August 1998 report, CIL had conveyed to the Ministry of Coal (MoC) that the coal block was an abandoned one as well as replete with water and thus it would be unsafe to undertake coal mining activities as per the statutory norms.
The CBI chargesheet also mentions that the CIL report came to the then Ministry of Coal (Projects)’s adviser Nityanand Gautam and he had sought further clarification from the CIL. After CIL’s comment, Gautam had proposed that it would be impossible to allot the coal mine to CTL.
The file had, thereafter, been sent to the then Coal MoS (Dilip Ray)’s office on April 23, 1999.
On May 12, 1999, CTL had submitted a fresh application to the then minister Ray urging to consider it soon. On May 13, 1999, the same file had been sent to the then Coal Secretary from the Minister’s office to re-examine the case, stated the CBI chargesheet.
It also mentioned, Gautam thereafter made a U-turn from his earlier observations and basing on his notings on the file, the then Coal Additional Secretary Mr Banerjee had accorded his seal of approval.
The 14th Screening Committee had recommended CTL’s representation for allocation of the coal block by relaxing the guidelines. After it had been done, CTL was allotted the coal block on September 1, 1999 even amid the objections raised by both CIL and CMPDIL, the charge sheet stated.
The CBI chargesheet further mentioned that CTL illegally extracted coal from the block sans any mining permission granted to it by the requisite authorities.
Also the CBI chargesheet mentioned that all the shares of CTL had been transferred in favour of CML firm owned by P.K. Agarwal, another convict in the coal scam case. CML also resorted to illegal coal mining from the block in question sans any valid mining permission or lease.