Two officials of a panel of the Union ministry of steel, along with a private firm and its director have been ordered by a Delhi court to be put on trial on cheating, forgery and corruption charges in a coal block allocation case.
Special CBI Judge Sanjeev Jain ordered framing of charges against executive secretary Goutam Kumar Basak and Manager Soumen Chatterjee of the ministry's joint plant committee for allegedly giving misleading report on production capacity of Chhattisgarh-based firm Prakash Industries Ltd.
Besides the two public servants and the firm, the court also found prima facie evidence for framing of charges against firm director (corporate affairs) AK Chaturvedi of the firm. "Prima facie there is sufficient material on record to frame charges against the accused persons," the court said.
"From the material on record, it appears that Goutam Kumar Basak and Soumen Chatterjee were directed to make physical verification of the plant and to give correct report about the production capacity and the kilns (furnace).
"Instead of giving the correct picture, they (Basak and Chatterjee) gave misleading picture suited to the claim of AK Chaturvedi and PIL," the judge said and fixed December 3 for formally framing charges against all the four accused. The court said there are sufficient evidence to frame charges against all under section 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating), 468 (forgery for the purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document) of the Indian Penal Code and under the provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
Set up in 1964 by the government for formulating guidelines for production, allocation, pricing and distribution of iron and steel materials, the JPC is the only institution which is officially empowered by the Ministry of Steel to collect data on iron and steel industry.
According to the CBI, on the basis of inflated production figures and "bogus reports" submitted by PIL, Basak and Chatterjee, the screening committee allotted the captive coal block at Urtan in Madhya Pradesh and at Vijay Central in Chhattisgarh to PIL.
The agency alleged the PIL, in connivance with Hind Energy & Coal Benefication (India) Pvt Ltd and other officials of the Ministry of Coal, the Ministry of Steel and the JPC, got allocated the coal blocks by "using false and fabricated documents."
The CBI told the court that on an application filed by PIL in January 1998, Chotia coal mining block at Chhattisgarh too was allotted to it. It said PIL, through its April 12, 2007 application, again applied for allotment of mining block for its steel plant at Champa in Chhattisgarh for expansion of its capacity and to justify its claim, it filed false and fabricated copies of Central Excise Returns showing inflated production figures from December 2007 to March 2008.
It said the steel ministry directed for verification of PIL after which Basak and Chatterjee visited PIL's plant in September 2008 and submitted their report containing "inflated production figures." The CBI's charge sheet alleged that PIL had mined coal from Chotia mining block in excess and diverted approximately 50% of it to the black market and earned a profit of about Rs22.7 crores.
It said PIL submitted application for allocation of coal block by giving false informations and submitting fabricated documents including excess returns through Chaturvedi.
The court, in its order, also noted that the CBI had already got sanction for prosecuting Basak and Chatterjee under the Prevention of Corruption Act.