Former Coal Minister in the NDA Government Dilip Ray will face trial on corruption charges for allegedly flouting rules in awarding the Brahmadiha coal block in Jharkhand's Giridih district to a private company in 1999.
According to a Special CBI Court order dated April 7, the charges would be formally framed against Ray – who is a sitting BJP MLA representing Rourkela in the Odisha assembly – and five other accused, on April 26.
The others accused in the case include Pradip Kumar Banerjee, the additional secretary in the Coal Ministry in 1999; former advisor in the ministry Nitya Nand Gautam; and, accused company Castron Technologies' Director Mahendra Kumar Aggarwalla.
Ray, along with other accused, will battle charges under Sections 120-B (criminal conspiracy), 420 (cheating) and 13(1)(d) of the Prevention of Corruption Act, which stands for abusing of position by a public official.
Special Judge Deepak Parashar agreed to adjourn the proceedings in the high-profile case to April 26 after lawyers for Ray and Mahendra Kumar Aggarwalla pleaded that charges not be framed during the April 7 hearing since both the accused weren't present in person. Banerjee and Gautam, however, did show up at the April 7 hearing at New Delhi's Patiala House.
The court had taken cognizance of the case on January 15 last year, after the CBI had filed the chargesheet a month earlier in December 2015.
In his order dated January 15 last year, Judge Parashar had observed that the decisions by Ray and the accused civil servants in 1999 were made “without keeping public interest in mind”.
The court had also made searing observations on Castron Technologies in that order, stating that the company had “cheated the government by unlawfully obtaining the allocation of the impugned coal block while entering into a criminal conspiracy with the public servants.”
According to the CBI chargesheet, Ray, along with Gautam and Banerjee, took a “U-turn” in allocating the Brahmadiha coal block in Jharkhand's Giridih district to Castron Technologies after the company initially didn't meet the ministry guidelines in the allocation of coal blocks. The CBI also reported in its chargesheet that Castron's application was successful even after Ray passed revised criteria for coal-block allocation, which wasn't met by Castron.
Ray wasn't available for a comment. He has, however, pleaded innocence in the case. The BJP leader was quoted as saying last year that he had not recommended the screening committee to “re-examine” the Castron's application, rather than asking it to “reconsider” the application.
“I see a conspiracy because there is no basis of the allegation against me. Let me repeat that I have not recommended the committee to re-consider, rather suggested to re-examine. I will reply my stand to the court,” he was quoted as saying by PTI in February last year.
With PTI inputs