New Delhi: Former Coal Secretary HC Gupta is among three former bureaucrats convicted of corruption in a coal scam case by a special CBI court today.
The case, related to the allocation of a coal mining block in Madhya Pradesh to a private company, is the first in which senior government officials have been held guilty in any coal scam case.
The two others held guilty are KS Kropha, who was Joint Secretary in the Ministry of Coal, and KC Samria, who was a director in charge of coal allocation.
Mr Gupta, 69, was Coal Secretary for two years under the Congress-led UPA government before he retired in 2008. As the man who chaired a screening committee that cleared at least 40 cases of coal mining rights, he is accused of playing a leading role in the massive swindle dubbed the coal scam.
The former top bureaucrat was accused of not following a transparent auctioning system and causing losses running into crores to the taxpayer. He was booked in as many as eight cases.
Mr Gupta had requested the court for a joint trial of the cases against him, citing his advancing age and precarious finances. But his petition was rejected as the court said the cases were at different stages.
Last year, he made headlines when he tearfully told a CBI court that he would rather face trial from inside jail than be out on bail since he could no longer afford his legal defence. He said that his "inner voice" had told him "god wants me to be in jail." He later withdrew his application to cancel bail.
During arguments in court, Mr Gupta had claimed that then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had given the "final approval" in the case. The CBI, however, refuted his claim and said that Dr Singh, who was also holding the portfolio of Coal Ministry at that time, was "kept in the dark" and misled.