Former Coal Secretary H C Gupta and two other officials working with the coal ministry concealed information from the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and misrepresented facts while recommending a private company for allotment of a coal block, a Delhi court said Friday.
Special Judge Bharat Parashar made this observation while convicting Gupta and one retired and another serving public servant -- K S Kropha and K C Samria -- in a corruption case relating to the allotment of coal blocks in West Bengal during the previous UPA regime at the Centre.
The court said Singh, who held the portfolio of Ministry of Coal (MoC), was to act only upon the recommendations made by the 36th Screening Committee.
"It is clear that the guidelines issued by MoC were through the guiding factors as per which the allocation of captive coal blocks was to be made by MoC, but its officers certainly deviated from the said guidelines as and when deemed necessary by them," the court said.
It said a "conscious effort" was made by accused officers of the MoC not to mention the reasons or process adopted for recommending the firm for allocation of the coal block.
Even in the meeting at PMO, with PM's Principal Secretary, it was reiterated by Gupta that proposals were based strictly on the merits of the applicants including the recommendations of the state governments where the blocks are located, it said.
The court noted that there was no apparent reason for the PM to disbelieve the minutes or recommendations made by 36th SC, which were forwarded to PMO by Gupta and that he had no reasons to doubt that the said minutes do not contain true and correct facts.
"It is clear that Gupta mala fide withheld true and correct facts from the Prime Minister as Minister In-charge by first not recording them in the minutes of Screening Committee meeting and later on by representing in the meeting held in PMO that all the proposals are based strictly on the merits of applicants including the recommendations of the State Governments where the blocks are located," the court said.
There was no reason for the PM, as MoC to presume that the guidelines issued have not been complied with, it said.
"It is thus not only apparent from the record but it is also certainly permissible to draw a presumption in the overall facts and circumstances of the case that PM as MoC proceeded to consider the recommendations of the Screening Committee on the assumption that the applications must have been checked in Ministry for their eligibility and completeness or that the guidelines must have been duly followed even by the SC," it said.
(With inputs from agencies.)