Former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and ex-coal secretary H C Gupta were today sentenced to three years in jail in a coal scam case by a special court which said “white collar crimes” were more “dangerous” to the society than ordinary crimes.
A K Basu, former Jharkhand chief secretary, and Vijay Joshi, a close aide of the ex-chief minister, were also awarded jail terms of three years for indulging in corrupt practices and hatching a criminal conspiracy in the allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand to Kolkata-based company, Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).
Special CBI court judge Bharat Parashar also imposed fines of Rs 50 lakh, Rs 25 lakh and Rs 1 lakh on VISUL, Koda and Gupta respectively in the UPA-era coal scam.
Joshi will also have to pay a fine of Rs 25 lakh and Basu Rs 1 lakh, the court here said.
“White collar crimes are in fact more dangerous to the society than ordinary crimes, firstly, because the financial losses are much higher, and, secondly because of the damages inflicted on public morale.
“The average loss from ordinary crimes such as burglaries, robberies and larcenies etc. may run into few thousand rupees only but the loss which the white collar crimes may cause run not only in lakhs but in crore of rupees,” the judge said in his order on the quantum of sentence.
Parashar said, “The convicted persons do not deserve to be extended the benefit of probation.”
With today’s sentencing, Koda would barred from venturing into electoral politics in the light of a 2013 judgement of the Supreme Court.
So far, four out of 30 coal block allocation scam cases have been decided by the special court, including today’s order, and 12 people and four companies held guilty.
After the sentence was pronounced, Koda told PTI that he was sad that he could not prove his innocence despite his best efforts and would approach the high court after perusing the order and consulting his lawyers.
On the issue of the Rs 25 lakh fine imposed on him, Koda said his bank accounts have been frozen and he will have to borrow the amount.
“I had put forth my views to prove my innocence. I am sad because of the order and will approach the high court after reading the judgement and consulting my advocates,” he said.
The convicts were tried for offences under sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy) read with 420 (cheating) and 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servants) of the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The CBI had said that the firm had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007.
It had said although the Jharkhand government and the steel ministry did not recommend VISUL’s case for coal block allocation, the 36th Screening Committee recommended the block to the accused firm.
The CBI had said that Gupta, who was chairman of the screening committee, had concealed facts from then prime minister Manmohan Singh, who at that time headed the coal ministry too, that Jharkhand had not recommended VISUL for allocation of a coal block.