On Monday, a Delhi Court sentenced the former Union Minister Dilip Ray to a three-year jail term, in a coal scam case, pertaining to irregularities in the allocation of a Jharkhand coal block in 1999.
The bench headed by Special Judge Bharat Parashar also awarded three-year jail term and imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh each to two senior officials of the Ministry of Coal at that time, Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam, and Castron Technologies Ltd’s (CTL) director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla. Further, the court also imposed Rs 60 lakh on CLT and Rs 10 lakh on Castron Mining Ltd (CML), also held guilty in the case.
A founder member of Biju Janata Dal (BJD), 64-year-old Ray became a Union minister when BJD was an NDA ally and while he was a Rajya Sabha member. The BJD expelled him from the party in 2002 after he defied the party’s dictate and re-contested for a second term in the upper house as an independent. He was elected to the state assembly thrice, as a Janata Dal candidate in 1985 and 1990 and as BJP nominee in 2014.
Ray had joined BJP in 2009 but resigned from the party in 2018, speculated as a reaction to charges being framed against him by the central probe agency. A close aide of Biju Patnaik, he was a minister in Biju’s cabinet in Odisha from 1990-1995. Currently, he is not active in any party politics.
Ray was Minister of State (coal) in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee government. Earlier, the CBI had urged the court to award life imprisonment to Ray and other convicts to send a message to society as white-collar crimes were on a rise.
The court held them guilty of the offenses under 120-B (criminal conspiracy) 409 (criminal breach of trust) and 420 (cheating) of the Indian Penal Code and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act. Besides this, Castron Technologies Limited, Mahesh Kumar Agarwalla and Castron Mining Limited were also held guilty for an offense under 379 (punishment for theft) and 34 (common intention) of the Indian Penal Code.
As many as 51 witnesses were examined in the case. The prosecution had argued that the facts and circumstances of the case clearly pointed to the hatching of a criminal conspiracy by the private parties and the public servants involved in the process of allocation of impugned coal block.
It was submitted that the Brahmadiha coal block was not a nationalized coal mine and was not included by CIL or its subsidiary companies in the identified list of captive coal blocks to be allocated by the Ministry of Coal.
Arguments on the quantum of sentence to the convicts will be heard by the court on October 14.