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Working of PMO officials not above board: Court

A special court hearing coal block allocation cases Monday said that working of PMO officials "does not appear to be above board" in the matter.

New Delhi: A special court hearing coal block allocation cases Monday said that working of PMO officials "does not appear to be above board" in the matter.

The court also ordered a further probe in a case related to Nagpur-based Grace Industries Ltd (GIL).

Special Judge Bharat Parashar ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct a further probe into the alleged collusion between public servants and company officials in a case related to GIL.

Observing that as there were specific remarks by then minister of state for coal Dasari Narayan Rao that GIL was "not eligible" for allocation of Lohara (east) coal block in Maharashtra, the then PMO officials should have highlighted the same before the file was submitted to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also the coal minister at that time.

"In these circumstances, I am constrained to observe that even the working of the officers of PMO also does not appear to be above board," the court said.

"When there was a specific observation by the minister of state for coal (Rao) regarding the case of M/s GIL, then at least the officers in PMO ought to have highlighted the said fact before the file was submitted to the (then) Prime Minister."

The court further added that the nature of proceedings however clearly shows the extent to which the ministry of coal (MOC) officers went in order to favour a private party i.e M/s GIL in securing allotment of a coal block.

The order came in a coal blocks allocation scam case in which the CBI had charge sheeted GIL and one of its directors, Mukesh Gupta, as accused for the offence under section 420 (cheating) of the IPC.

However, the probe agency has added that sufficient incriminating evidence warranting prosecution of GIL's other director Seema Gupta or any other public servant involved in the entire process could not come on record.

The court said: "It is thus prima facie clear that the private parties i.e. M/s GIL and its two directors Mukesh Gupta and Seema Gupta entered into a criminal conspiracy with the public servants namely H.C. Gupta, who was secretary, MOC and was also the chairman screening committee, K.S. Kropha, the then joint secretary, MOC and who was also the member convener screening committee and Vishwas Sawakhande, director, directorate of geology and mining, government of Maharashtra with a view to misappropriate the nationalized natural resources of the country."

It added that the public servants facilitated misappropriation of the said nationalized natural resources of the country by M/s GIL by acting contrary to the direction of law and thus prima facie committed the offence of criminal breach of trust and the offence of criminal misconduct and criminal conspiracy.

The court said: "In view of the aforesaid circumstances when sanction to prosecute two public servants involved is required so before proceeding to take cognizance of any of the offences either against the private parties involved or the public servants, I deem it appropriate to refer the present matter for further investigation to the CBI."

During the course of further investigation the CBI shall place before the sanctioning authority, the records of the present case so that the sanctioning authority may consider the question of according sanction to prosecute the two public servants namely Kropha and Vishwas Sawakhande for the offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act, the court said.