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Working of PMO officials not above board, says Court

The court made the observations in an order relating to a case of Nagpur-based Grace Industries Ltd (GIL) in which it directed the CBI to further probe the alleged role and collusion between public servants and company officials. The court also noted that when 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 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. 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 Prime Minister,” Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar said.

“Be that as it may, the aforesaid nature of proceedings however clearly shows the extent to which the MOC (Ministry of Coal) officers went in order to favour a private party i.e M/s GIL in securing allotment of a coal block,” the court said in a 40-page order.

The order came in a coal blocks allocation scam case in which the CBI had chargesheeted GIL and one of its Director, Mukesh Gupta, as accused for the offence under section 420 (cheating) of the IPC. The agency, in its charge sheet, has said 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, in its order, asked the CBI to place before the sanctioning authority the records of the case so that they may consider the question of according sanction to prosecute two public servants -- K S Kropha, the then Joint Secretary in the Coal Ministry, and Vishwas Sawakhande, Director of Directorate of Geology and Mining Maharashtra government, for offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act PCA).

“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,” the judge said and directed the CBI to file a progress report of the further probe on February 4.

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