A Delhi court on Monday reserved for December 5 its order on sentencing of former coal secretary H C Gupta, convicted in a corruption case relating to allotment of coal blocks in West Bengal during the previous United Progressive Alliance regime at the Centre.
The court will also award punishment to five others, including one retired and another serving public servant -- K S Kropha and K C Samria -- held guilty for various offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act and Indian Penal Code.
Samria's lawyer informed that court that he has been suspended after he was convicted and taken into custody on November 30.
The Central Bureua of Investigation sought a maximum of seven years imprisonment for the five convicted persons and imposition of heavy fine on the private firm.
The offences for which they have been convicted entail a minimum punishment of one year in jail, going up to a maximum of seven years.
Special judge Bharat Parashar heard for over two hours the arguments on quantum of punishment advanced by the counsel for CBI and convicts.
The court had on November 30 convicted Gupta, former joint secretary in ministry of coal, Kropha and the then director (CA-I) in the ministry Samria.
It had also convicted the firm, Vikash Metals and Power Limited, its managing director Vikash Patni and its authorised signatory Anand Mallick.
The counsel for Gupta and four other convicted persons sought a lenient sentence. The firm's lawyer pleaded that it should not be burdened with fine as it has gone for liquidation and it was yet to meet the liability of debts.
Gupta's counsel B S Mathur pleaded that he was 70 years old and suffering from various ailments. He only had his pension given by the central government to support his family, the lawyer said, adding that he never tried to take law into his hands during the investigation or trial.
The case pertains to alleged irregularities in the allocation of Moira and Madhujore (North and South) coal blocks in West Bengal to VMPL. In September 2012, the CBI registered an FIR in the case.
CBI prosecutors Sanjay Kumar, V K Sharma and A P Singh argued that maximum punishment be awarded to the convicts keeping in view the gravity of the offence and its impact on society at large.
They contended that as per the CAG report, a loss of Rs 1.86 lakh crore was caused to the exchequer overall in the entire coal scam.
The prosecutors claimed that during the trial, attempts were made by the accused to undermine the dignity of the court, prosecutors were targeted and prosecution witnesses were harassed and humiliated by the some of the accused and their counsel.
Kropha's lawyer submitted that he was a senior citizen and his retirement benefits were under cloud. He said Kropha was the one whose efforts lead to dismantling of the screening committee and now coal blocks are allocated through the auction process.
50-year-old Samria's counsel urged the court to show mercy while awarding the punishment as he has to support an ailing wife, aged parents and two sons who are studying.
The counsel for 42-year-old Patni sought leniency saying he was the sole bread earner in the family and after allocation of coal block, his company suffered huge loss and now he was struggling to meet daily expenses.
51-year-old Mallick's advocate also submitted that he was the only earning member in the family and there was no one else to pay for his children's studies and that his conduct during the trial was impeccable.
Gupta, who was the Coal secretary from December 31, 2005 to November 2008, has already been convicted before this in two other cases of coal block allocation in which he had been sentenced to jail for two and three years respectively. He is out on bail in both the cases.
Kropha, who was then the joint secretary, ministry of coal, retired in December 2017 as the chief secretary of Meghalaya. He has also been convicted and sentenced to two years in another coal block allocation scam and has been on bail.
Samria then held the rank of director in the ministry of coal and is joint secretary in ministry of minority affairs. He has already been convicted and sentenced to two years jail term in another case and was out on bail.
All the convicted persons were taken into judicial custody after pronouncement of the order on the direction of the court.
All have been held guilty for the offences under Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC, including cheating, criminal conspiracy and criminal misconduct.
Gupta has been accused in 12 cases of alleged irregularities in coal block allocation scam, prosecutors had said.
The CBI has filed charge sheets in connection with alleged irregularities in 40 cases of coal block allocations during the UPA-1 and UPA-2 regime.
On July 25, 2014, the Supreme Court had approved appointment of Additional Sessions Judge Parashar as special judge to exclusively deal with all coal scam cases.
Till now the special court has decided six such cases.
In the present case, the court had on August 19, 2016 framed charges, including cheating and criminal conspiracy against Gupta, the two public servants, the firm and its two officials. They all had pleaded not guilty and claimed trial. All the accused were out on bail.
The other two coal scam cases in which Gupta was earlier convicted related to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) and Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd(VISUL). Kropha and Samria were also convicted in KSSPL case.