Coalgate: CBI questions former Coal Secretary

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GuptaNew Delhi, June 20:Former Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta was on Thursday questioned for over seven hours by the CBI over alleged irregularities in the coal blocks allocation from 2006 to 2008 during his tenure.

Mr. Gupta faced tough questions for allegedly overlooking the misrepresentation of facts by AMR Iron and Steel Private Limited which was allocated Bander Coal block in Maharashtra.

Mr. Gupta, who resigned as member of Competition Commission of India (CCI) after CBI summoned him as an accused in the case, was asked about a Screening Committee meeting chaired by him.

During this meeting, Mr. Gupta, a 1971 batch IAS officer of U.P. cadre, had cleared the coal block in favour of AMR group.

The CBI had last year registered a case against AMR Directors Devendra Darda, son of Congress MP Vijay Darda, along with Arvind Jayaswal, Manoj Jayaswal and Ramesh Jayaswal

The CBI claimed that AMR had “fraudulently and wilfully” concealed the fact that its group of companies have already been allocated five coal blocks with an “object to avoid scrutiny on this count which would have weakened its claim”, they said.

The allegation against the former Coal Secretary was that the committee did not follow the mandatory procedures and did not carry out proper background checks while allocating coal blocks to the companies.

The Government had initially refused to grant permission to CBI to question Mr. Gupta as he was a member of CCI but yielded after the agency decided to inform the Supreme Court about not getting the sanction to proceed against him.

During his period as Secretary beginning from June 2006 to November 2008, 68 coal blocks were alloted to 151 companies and files of some of them had gone missing.

The Government gave the permission on June 11 and a day later Mr. Gupta submitted his resignation from CCI.

The CBI, which is probing the coal block allocation scam, has registered 13 FIRs related to alleged irregularities in the allotment coal blocks between 2006 and 2009.

In a recent FIR filed last week, the CBI has named as accused Congress MP Naveen Jindal, former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayana Rao and unknown officials of the Screening Committee which clears allocation of coal blocks and is normally chaired by Coal Secretary.

In its status report filed on March 8 before the Supreme Court, the CBI had said that the coal blocks allocation during 2006-09 was done without verifying the credentials of companies which allegedly misrepresented facts about themselves and no rationale was given by the Coal Ministry in giving coal blocks to them.

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