The Delhi High Court on Tuesday stayed a trial court order awarding three-year jail term to former Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda in a coal scam case till January 22, by when it has also sought response of the CBI on his appeal challenging the conviction and sentence.
Justice Anu Malhotra also stayed the order imposing a fine of Rs 25 lakh on Koda, who was present in the court, and granted him interim bail till the next date of hearing this month with a direction that he will not leave the country.
The order came on Koda's plea seeking suspension of sentence and regular bail till pendency of his appeal before the high court. Koda, who was held guilty of corruption and conspiracy in allocation of a Jharkhand-based coal block to Kolkata-based company Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL), also challenged the December 13 and 16, 2017 orders of conviction and sentence respectively, which was admitted by the high court.
The former chief minister was granted bail by a trial court till January 18. In his appeal, Koda said the trial court order holding him guilty was bad in law.
The appeal and stay on the fine was opposed by CBI counsel Tarannum Cheema. The agency, however, did not oppose interim bail granted to Koda till January 22.
The high court had on December 22, 2017 stayed a trial court order imposing a fine of Rs 50 lakh on VISUL in the case till the next date of hearing.
The high court on December 20 had sought response of the CBI on an appeal by Koda's close aide Vijay Joshi against the trial court's order awarding him three years jail term in the coal scam case.
All the pleas filed so far in connection with this matter will be heard on January 22. Koda, ex-coal secretary H C Gupta, A K Basu, former Jharkhand chief secretary, and Joshi were 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 the Kolkata-based company.
While sentencing the convicts, the special court had said "white collar crimes" were more "dangerous" to the society than ordinary crimes.
It had 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. Rs one lakh fine was also imposed on Basu. The convicts were granted statutory bail for a period of two months to enable them to file appeals in the Delhi High Court.
So far, four out of 30 coal block allocation scam cases have been decided by the special court, including this order, and 12 people and four companies have been held guilty. 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.
While the offence of cheating carries a maximum punishment of seven years jail term, criminal breach of trust by public servants entails a maximum punishment of life imprisonment.
The CBI had said that the firm had applied for allocation of Rajhara North coal block on January 8, 2007. It had said that 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.