The much-awaited verdict on the coal block allocation scam finally drew the first blood today, as the special court held Jharkhand Ispat Private Limited (JIPL) and its two directors, R S Rungta and R C Rungta, guilty of various charges including deceiving and defrauding the government to bag a coal block in the state.
Below is all you need to know about the case and the verdict in toto.
What is the case about
The case involves JIPL and its directors R S Rungta and R C Rungta who are accused of acquiring the coal block allegedly on the basis of false and forged documents.
The court had on 21 March last year framed charges against them for the alleged offences punishable under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating) and 471 (using a forged document as genuine) of IPC.
"Coming now to the case in hand, it is crystal clear that accused persons (JIPL and Rungtas) fraudulently with dishonest intention deceived Screening Committee, MOC (Ministry of Coal), and thereby Government of India on the basis of false representation qua the issue of land and as regard the installed/projected capacity of their end use project so as to procure allotment of a coal block in favour of M/s JIPL," Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.
What does the judgement say
In its 132-page judgement, the court held that the "false representation" by the convicts "continued to hold ground even when the file containing recommendation of Screening Committee
went to Minister in Charge, Coal, Government of India for final approval and thus it was primarily the Government which was deceived into making allotment of a coal block in favour
of M/s JIPL while believing all such representations to be true, which in fact they were not."
"The intention to defraud on the part of accused persons is writ large on the face of record," the court said. It observed that offence of cheating under section 420 of the IPC was made out against the three convicts as their act resulted in "delivery of a valuable security",that is issuance of allocation letter for allotment of coal block to the firm.
When is the next court hearing
The Rungtas, who were out on bail and were present in the courtroom when the verdict was pronounced, were ordered to be taken into custody and the court has now fixed the matter for
31 March for hearing arguments on quantum of sentence.
How many more cases are pending before the court
Besides this case, 19 other cases investigated by the CBI are pending before the court, which was set up to exclusively deal with all the coal scam matters. Two other cases probed by
Enforcement Directorate (ED) is also pending before the court.
What were the court's observations about the convicts
In its verdict, the court observed that from the overall facts and circumstances of the case, it was crystal clear that the actions of "accused in making all such false claims knowing them to be false were actuated with an intention to deceive MOC and thereby Government of India."
The court observed it was clear that JIPL and the Rungtas knew that their claims about actual land possessed by them or steps taken to acquire any further piece of land besides existing installed capacity of their end-use project and the proposed capacity were "false".
"It is also clear that the accused persons, knowing fully well that the said facts were false, represented them to be true or as existing facts and thus misled Screening Committee
and thereby Ministry of Coal to believe in the existence of said facts as true and thereby inducing it to part with the important nationalised natural resources of the country i.e.
coal," it said.
"By way of their said misrepresentations, the accused persons also induced Screening Committee and thereby Ministry of Coal to part with much higher quantity of coal in their favour than was warranted, if at all allocation of any coal block was to be made," the court noted.
What led to the conviction
Regarding the conspiracy amongst these convicts, the court observed that they had consciously made false representation at different stages of processing of their application for allotment of coal block before the Ministries of Steel and Coal.
"Different roles were played by the accused persons in order to support the claim made by each other before different Government authorities. The existence of a common agreement amongst the accused persons is thus writ large on the face of record," the court said.
It said the representations made by them were "per-se false" and it "does not require any far-fetched arguments to conclude that the same were made with a dishonest intention as they wanted to present a better status/stage of their preparedness towards establishing the end use project."
"The mens rea (criminal intent) on the part of accused persons in making the said false representations right from the stage of submitting their application to Ministry of Steel seeking allotment of a captive coal block and till the issuance of final allocation letter with respect to allotment of a coal block in favour of company M/s JIPL is writ large on the face of record and that too while having complete knowledge that all such representations were false," it said.
The court observed that the facts and circumstances beside evidence led by CBI and cross-examination of the prosecution witnesses, coupled with defence evidence led by the accused, does not show that there was any failure of justice.
With inputs from PTI