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Govt should protect, not prosecute honest officers: Ex-Coal Secy

Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta, an accused in several coal scam cases, on Wednesday stuck to his stand of not engaging a lawyer due to financial difficulties even as he expressed anguish before a special court saying the government should recognise its honest officers and protect them instead of prosecuting them.

Gupta, who refused to engage a lawyer or avail any service provided by the court to defend himself, cited financial constraints and said the pension he got was good enough to lead a retired life but advocates’ fees cannot be paid in such a large number of cases. “Government gives pension which is good enough to live a retired life but there is no way that fees of advocates can be paid in such large number of cases from pension. Moreover, I do not want to have an advocate whose fee I cannot pay. I do not want to take such an obligation at this stage of my life,” he submitted before Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar.

Gupta, who wanted his bail to be cancelled and contest the cases against him from jail, said in his application that “coal block allocation was no scam.” 

Regarding his fellow bureaucrats in the coal ministry, Gupta said that officials who worked with him during the coal blocks allocation had “unimpeachable integrity” but many of them were facing trial now.

“I would urge the government to think of these officers who are still in service and are facing trials. They have no money to hire the services of advocates. I think it is time the government recognises its honest officers and protects them rather than prosecuting them,” he said. The court on Wednesday again offered him legal aid from New Delhi Legal Aid Services Authority (NDLSA) or any other lawyer he wished as an amicus curiae, which he refused to take. The court has now posted the matter for further hearing on August 19.

Gupta had on Tuesday told the court that he intended to “face trial from inside the jail” and sought to withdraw his personal bond to secure bail due to financial difficulties.

In his application moved on Tuesday, Gupta also said “whatever I did as Chairperson of the Screening Committee or as secretary coal was done with a clear conscience... I also believe that coal block allocation was no scam. Screening Committee did its job with sincerity and in good faith.” “I cannot even imagine being involved in any such acts (scams), yet I find that I am being accused of conspiracy, corruption and criminal misconduct by responsible organisations like CBI...They alleged that I misguided the then Prime Minister,” he said.

Gupta termed the allegations against him as “absolutely shocking” and said this too had persuaded him to withdraw the personal bond. “For me one approach could be to remain on bail and deal with the case in a normal manner. However, my conscience tells me not to do so. I am an elderly man suffering from many diseases. It is quite possible that I may not survive the period of trial getting completed. I will not like anyone to think that I escaped punishment because of the time taken in trial,” he said.
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