A Delhi court on Thursday awarded varying jail terms to three persons in a coal scam case related to irregularities in the allocation of the Jharkhand-based North Dhadhu coal block.
Two directors of Pawanjay Steel and Power Limited (PSPL), Gyanchand Prasad Agarwal (70) and Umesh Prasad Agarwal (58), were sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for a period of three years each for the offences of criminal conspiracy (120-B of IPC) and cheating (420 of IPC), while 65-year-old S K Kanungo, Chief Manager (Marketing) of Hari Machines Ltd (HML), was jailed for a period of two years for the offence punishable under 120-B of the IPC.
Special judge Bharat Parashar also imposed a fine of Rs 75 lakh on the company, while Rs 40 lakh each was imposed on the Agarwals. Besides, the court also directed Kanungo to pay a fine of Rs one lakh.
It said "dishonest misrepresentation" was made by the accused before the Screening Committee and it continued even before then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also holding the portfolio of Minister of Coal, approved the recommendation of the committee.
"Off-late the anti social activities of persons of the upper socioeconomic strata of the society in their occupation and which have come to be known as 'white collar crimes' have attracted attention...
"Such white collar crimes are in fact more dangerous to the society than ordinary crimes, firstly, because the financial losses are much higher, and, secondly because of the damages inflicted on public morale," the court said.
The court dismissed the contentions of the advocate P K Dubey, appearing for the convicts, that no loss was caused to anyone as no coal could be extracted, saying that "non-extraction of coal in itself has caused huge loss to the country".
"Non-availability of such an important raw material has in fact caused an immense loss to the country in its journey to achieve higher infrastructural/industrial development. Thus, it is the country as a whole which has suffered loss on account of such unscrupulous acts of the convict persons," it said.
CBI's Senior Public Prosecutor A P Singh had prayed for award of maximum punishment to the convict persons submitting that on account of act of the convict persons the important nationalised natural resources of the country were squandered away and thereby impacting the very industrial development of the country.
The court, however, granted bail to three convict persons for a period of 30 days on a personal bond and a surety bond of Rs one lakh each to enable them to file appeal in the high court against the verdict.
The court had on September 28, 2016 summoned the accused for the alleged offences of criminal conspiracy and cheating, saying "prima facie there were sufficient incriminating evidence on record" against them.
The court later granted bail to all the accused persons after they appeared before it in pursuance to the summons.
The CBI had registered the case under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act against PSPL, its officials, Kanungo and other unidentified persons, including public servants.
However, the CBI said that charge sheet against some other officials and public servants could not be filed as sufficient evidence could not be brought on record. It added that it may file supplementary charge sheet in the case.
The charge sheet had said, "PSPL and its two directors, along with Kanungo, hatched a criminal conspiracy with a view to deceive Ministry of Coal (MoC) so as to induce it to allocate a captive coal block in favour of the accused firm."
"During the processing of their application, they also furnished wrong information supported with false documents to Ministry of Steel (MoS) so as to deceive them and thereby inducing them to make a recommendation in favour of PSPL to MoC for allotment of a coal block," it had said.
It alleged that PSPL had also submitted wrong information about the land actually acquired by them at the proposed project site in Jharkhand.
"It was also found that the accused had furnished false information to the Government of Jharkhand also so as to deceive them and thereby inducing them to make recommendation in favour of PSPL to MoC for allotment of a captive coal block," it had said.