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Coal scam | Ex-Coal Secy Concealed Facts From Then PM, Says CBI

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CBI on Friday told a special court that former Coal Secretary H C Gupta had allegedly concealed facts from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that Jharkhand had not recommended Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL) for allocation of a Chhattisgarh coal block.

During arguments on framing of charges in the case involving Gupta, former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and others, CBI said the top official was aware that the state government had not recommended the coal block to VISUL but he did not mention this in the file noting sent to the office of the Prime Minister, who then headed the Coal Ministry too.
"Gupta did not highlight in the file sent to the Minister of Coal (Singh) that VISUL was not recommended by the state government but A K Basu (then Chief Secretary of Jharkhand and an accused in the case) had insisted in the meeting of screening committee that VISUL should be given the block," senior public prosecutor V K Sharma told Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar.
The prosecutor further said, "He (Gupta) did not write it in the file. Gupta did not mention it in the noting sent to the Minister of Coal. He concealed this fact from the Minister of Coal." 
Gupta on May 27 had argued that Singh, being the then coal minister, had the ultimate power to allocate coal block.
During arguments today, the agency said that Koda, Basu and two other accused public servants conspired with each other to somehow favour VISUL in the coal block allocation despite the fact that the state government had initially recommended two other firms for it.
It alleged that Basu, who had attended the meeting of screening committee, insisted that VISUL should be recommended for the allocation.
The prosecutor said that even the Steel Ministry had not recommended VISUL for Rajhara north coal block allocation.
Some of the accused, however, opposed the contentions of CBI saying there was no evidence against them.
The court after hearing the arguments fixed the matter for June 30 for any clarification.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to Kolkata-based VISUL. 
During the arguments, CBI told the court that Koda, who was the then Chief Minister of Jharkhand, had himself approved the names of two other companies for Rajhara north coal block allocation and that file had passed through Gupta as well.
Referring to the recommendation of Steel Ministry in this matter, it said, "VISUL was not kept in any category in recommendation given by the Ministry of Steel".
Regarding the two other accused public servants -- Basant Kumar Bhattacharya and Bipin Bihari Singh -- the CBI said they had written the note in favour of VISUL "without any reason".
"Koda never questioned as to how the names of two firms which were initially recommended by the state government were not there in the screening committee and how VISUL was recommended by the committee for Rajhara north coal block," the prosecutor said.
During the arguments, Gupta told the court that decision of the screening committee was unanimous and VISUL was eligible for allocation of coal block.
Earlier, Gupta had dragged the former PM's name in the coal scam, saying he took the "ultimate decision" as the then coal minister in allocation of coal blocks.
He had said Manmohan Singh had the "final authority" to take decisions and Gupta, being the chairman of screening committee, was empowered to only recommend allocation of blocks.
Gupta, along with eight others, including VISUL, Koda, ex-Chief Secretary of Jharkhand Ashok Kumar Basu, are accused in the case.
Besides Gupta, Koda, Basu and VISUL, the other accused in the case are -- public servants Bipin Bihari Singh and Basant Kumar Bhattacharya, VISUL's Director Vaibhav Tulsyan, Koda's alleged close aide Vijay Joshi and chartered accountant Navin Kumar Tulsyan.
These eight accused were earlier granted bail by the court after they had appeared before it in pursuance to the summons issued against them.
They were summoned as accused after the court took cognisance of alleged offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) of IPC and under provisions of Prevention of Corruption Act.
CBI, in its charge sheet, had said that VISUL had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007 to the Ministry of Coal.
CBI had alleged that although Jharkhand government and the Steel Ministry did not recommend VISUL's case for the coal block allocation, the 36th Screening Committee recommended the block to the accused firm.

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