Delhi court permits Darda, accused in coal scam, to travel abroad

Devendra Darda, son of a former Rajya Sabha member Vijay Darda, was accused of resorting to irregularities in getting a coal block allocated to JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd in Chattisgarh

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New Delhi: Devendra Darda, son of former Rajya Sabha member Vijay Darda and an accused in coal scam cases, has been granted permission by a local court to travel abroad for business purposes. The special Judge Arun Bhardwaj allowed Devendra to travel to UAE and Sweden from October 2 (Monday) to 12.

Darda was also granted permission earlier to travel abroad and he followed all terms and conditions imposed by the court. The judge, however, directed him to furnish fixed deposit receipts (FDRs) of ₹20 lakh each in the three cases for seeking the permission.

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The Delhi High Court had last week suspended the four-year sentence of Darda, his father and JLD Yavatmal Energy Pvt Ltd’s Director Manoj Kumar Jayaswal. Both were handed out a four-year jail term on July 26 for their involvement in irregularities in the allocation of a coal block in Chhattisgarh.

Justice Dinesh Kumar Sharma had granted Dardas and Jayaswal interim bail on July 28 till September 26, and had issued notice on the pleas moved by Dardas and Jayaswal against the trial court order convicting and sentencing them in the case. On the same day, Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma allowed the pleas and suspended the sentence till the pendency of their appeals challenging their conviction and jail term in the case.

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The court also directed them not to leave the country without prior permission of the court. They were also directed not to directly or indirectly make any inducement, threat or promise to witnesses in the case. “It is directed that the sentence imposed on the appellant shall remain suspended during the pendency of the present appeal, subject to his furnishing a personal bond in the sum of Rs 1 lakh with two sureties of the like amount…,” the high court said.

CBI advocate Tarannum Cheema opposed the pleas for suspension of sentence. The high court has now listed the appeals for consideration on February 14, 2024.

The accused were held guilty under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) and 420 (criminal conspiracy) of the Indian Penal Code, and sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act by the special court.

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On November 20, 2014, the court had rejected the closure report submitted by the CBI in this case and had directed the probe agency to initiate a fresh investigation, citing that the former MP Darda had “misrepresented” facts in letters addressed to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who also held the Coal portfolio.

As per the case, Vijay Darda, who is the chairperson of the Lokmat Group, resorted to such misrepresentations in order to obtain the Fatehpur (East) coal block in Chhattisgarh for JLD Yavatmal Energy. The court had ruled that the act of cheating was carried out by private entities as part of a conspiracy involving both private parties and public servants. JLD Yavatmal Energy was granted the Fatehpur (East) coal block by the 35th Screening Committee.

Initially, the CBI alleged in its FIR that JLD Yavatmal had unlawfully concealed the previous allocation of four coal blocks to its group companies between 1999 and 2005. However, the agency later filed a closure report, stating that no undue benefit had been granted to JLD Yavatmal by the coal ministry during the coal block allocation.

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