Court awards 3yr RI to ex-steel ministry official in coal block scam

Former steel ministry official GK Basak was accused of resorting to irregularities in allocation of coal block to Prakash Industries Ltd in 2008

coal block scam

New Delhi: A Delhi court on Tuesday sentenced former official, Gautam Kumar Basak, in the steel ministry to three years rigorous imprisonment (RI) in a scam related to alleged irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh. Basak has also been imposed a fine of ₹5 lakh.

CBI Special Judge Arun Bhardwaj passed an order after hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence on August 19. The government counsel after filing written submissions on the point of sentence has prayed to maximum sentence and heaviest amount of fine.

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Basak’s counsel Ajit Singh submitted before the court that his convict is 72 years of age, suffering from heart and prostrate disease. He also said that the wife of the convict had undergone knee surgery and is a patient of bronchitis asthma and needs his assistance as there is no other family member to look after her. The convict has only one daughter who is married and living in a different city.

Basak’s counsel further argued that the convict has suffered the rigorous of trial of more than 13 years as he is attending hearings in this case since April 6, 2012. “There was no allegation that he received any monetary gain for giving the report September 5, 2008. Also, no coal block was allocated to M/s Prakash Industries Ltd. (PIL) on the basis of the report given by the convict and therefore, there is no loss to the exchequer,” he said.

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The special court has held Basak, former executive secretary, JPC (Joint Plant Committee), ministry of steel, guilty of corruption in the allocation of Vijay Central Coal Block on August, 18 and after hearing arguments on the quantum of sentence fixed the matter for August 22, 2023 for pronouncing the judgment.

The court after hearing arguments at time of conviction said, “All the circumstances pertaining to the case have been discussed in detail, while dealing the question of substantive charge of criminal misconduct framed against the Soumen Chatterjee, a former official in the Ministry of Steel. There is no evidence of informed and interested cooperation, simulation and instigation by Soumen Chatterjee.”

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The fundamental principles for proving any offence by circumstantial evidence are not met in this case. Merely accompanying Basak to the plant of M/s. PIL on the directions of Basak, who was senior officer of Soumen Chatterjee without there being any other circumstantial evidence is not sufficient to return a finding of criminal conspiracy between Chatterjee and Basak.

“This point for determination is therefore answered accordingly. It is already noted that the beneficiary of the false and favourable spot verification report, namely M/s. PIL and AK Chaturvedi, the director of M/s. PIL have already been discharged in the case by the Delhi High Court. Although the challenge is pending before the HC but there is no interim order staying the operation of order of discharge passed by the Hon’ble Delhi High Court in favour of M/s. PIL and A.K Chaturvedi,” the court held.

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“In the absence of any evidence of conspiracy between Basak and Chatterjee, neither of them can be convicted for the charge of criminal conspiracy. Resultantly, both the accused Basak and Chatterjee are acquitted of the charge under section 120 B and 120 B read with 13 (2) read with 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988” the Court said.

The Court said, “Basak is convicted under section 13 (2) read with section 13 (1) (d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988, Chatterjee is acquitted of the charge framed against him under section 13 (2) read with section 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and Basak and Chatterjee are acquitted of the charge framed against them under Section 120 B of IPC and 120 B read with section 13 (2) read with sectionv 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988.”

Prosecution has alleged that PIL, which had applied for the coal block in January 2007, had furnished false information about its capacity and the Steel Ministry had directed Basak to ascertain the truth of the allegation.

Prosecution also alleged that the former official of steel ministry had submitted a false report in 2008 supporting the claims made by the company.

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