How unscrupulous firms made it for coal block allocation, asks Court

New Delhi: A special court hearing the coal scam cases on Monday wondered as to how “unscrupulous companies” were allocated coal blocks and the Ministry of Coal (MoC) did not scrutinise the applications filed by the firms either before or after the approval granted by PMO.

“Was it a coincidence that although there was no scrutiny of applications in the Ministry of Coal, the coal blocks were allocated to unscrupulous companies,” asked Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar.

The court’s observation came when the advocates appearing for former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and senior public servant K C Samria argued that there was shortage of manpower in the Ministry to scrutinise the large number of almost 1,400 applications received seeking coal block allocation.

Questioning their defence, the court also remarked, “Forget those 1,400 applications (received by the Ministry). Once the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) cleared or gave the approval for letter of allocation to the companies, what prevented you (MoC) from scrutinising those few applications which were given approval.”

The defence counsel, however, claimed it was not “humanly possible” to scrutinise these huge number of applications as there were only six officials in the MoC’s CA-I section where the applications were received.

“Only six officers were there in the MoC to scrutinise all these 1,400 applications, that too in a time bound manner. This was not humanly possible. These applications were too voluminous,” advocate B S Mathur, who appeared for Gupta, told the court during arguments on framing of charges in the case.

The defence counsel also argued that there might be negligence on the part of MoC officials in not scrutinising these applications but there was “no guilty mind or conspiracy” on their part. The court was hearing arguments on framing of charges in the case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to accused firm Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL).