A Delhi court on Wednesday sentenced ex-Rajya Sabha MP Vijay Darda, his son Devender Darda, and businessman Manoj Kumar Jayaswal to four years in jail in a case related to irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh, holding that the convicts obtained the block by ”cheating” the Centre.
All three convicts were taken into custody immediately after the order of the court, which also said the prosecution is justified in saying that the loss to the nation was huge.
“Convicts Manoj Kumar Jayaswal, Vijay Darda and Devendra Darda are taken into custody and be sent to jail to serve the sentence,” the judge said.
Special Judge Sanjay Bansal also awarded three-year jail terms to ex-coal secretary H C Gupta and two former senior public servants — K S Kropha and K C Samria — in the case.
The three convicts were, however, granted bail by the court to enable them to challenge their conviction and punishment before the high court.
“The sentence of imprisonment awarded to convicts H C Gupta, K S Kropha and K C Samria shall remain suspended for a period of 45 days and they are admitted to bail upon their furnishing a personal bond and a surety bond in the sum of Rs 10,000 each for a period of 45 days,” the judge said.
The judge passed the direction on applications moved by Gupta, Kropha and Samria, seeking suspension of sentence till filing of the appeal.
He directed that the three convicts “shall not travel abroad, unless specific permission in this regard is granted by High Court.” The court also imposed a fine of Rs 50 lakh on the company, JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd, which was also convicted in the case.
It further imposed a fine of Rs 15 lakh each on the Dardas and Jayaswal. The other three convicts were directed to pay a fine of Rs 20,000 each.
“The present case relates to allocation of a coal block. The convicts had obtained the said block by committing cheating with the Govt. of India. Prosecution is justified in saying that the loss to the nation was huge,” the judge said.
In the 13th conviction in the coal scam, the the court had on July 13 held the seven accused guilty under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (cheating) of the IPC, and relevant provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The scandal had rocked the Manmohan Singh government in 2012 after the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) panned the government for inefficient allocation of 194 coal blocks to public sector enterprises and private companies between 2004 and 2009 for captive use in a non-transparent way.
The CAG said instead of allocating the valuable natural resource, the government should have gone for competitive bidding.
During arguments on the quantum of sentence, the CBI had sought the maximum punishment of seven-year jail term for the convicts, claiming that Darda and his son had met the then CBI director Ranjit Sinha at his residence to scuttle investigations.
The Supreme Court had constituted an SIT to investigate the allegations against Sinha that he tried to influence the probe in the coal scam cases. Sinha, a 1974 batch IPS officer of Bihar cadre, died from Covid-related complications in 2021.
CBI’s senior public prosecutor A P Singh had claimed that a witness in the case stated he was threatened by Jayaswal, who tried to influence him to not depose against him.
The court had on November 20, 2014 refused to accept a closure report submitted by the CBI in the case and directed the federal probe agency to investigate it afresh, stating that the former MP had ”misrepresented” facts in letters written to the then prime minister, Manmohan Singh, who held the Coal portfolio.
It said Vijay Darda had done so to secure the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh for JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd.
The court further said the offence of cheating was committed by private parties in furtherance of a conspiracy hatched between them and public servants.
JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd was allotted Fatehpur (East) coal block by the 35th Screening Committee.
The CBI had alleged in its FIR that JLD Yavatmal had wrongfully concealed previous allocation of four coal blocks to its group companies in 1999-2005, but the agency later filed a closure report, saying no undue benefit was extended to JLD Yavatmal by the coal ministry in allocation of coal blocks.
The CAG initially estimated a massive loss of Rs 10.6 lakh crore to the exchequer in the coal allocation scam but its final report tabled in Parliament had put the figure at Rs 1.86 lakh crore.