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Meghalaya Chief Secretary to contest conviction in coal scam case

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New Delhi, May 21 (IANS) Meghalaya Chief Secretary K.S. Kropha, who was convicted in a coal block allocation case, on Sunday said he would file an appeal in a higher court.

"I am waiting for the copy of the judgment and will decide accordingly to appeal in the higher court," Kropha told IANS over phone.

On Friday, a special CBI court convicted former Coal Secretary H.C. Gupta and coal ministry officials K.C. Samria and Kropha in the allocation of Thesgora B/Rudrapuri coal block in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL).

The KSSPL and its Managing Director Pawan Kumar Ahluwalia were among those convicted for criminal conspiracy and cheating under the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act.

Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar, who has held the trio guilty in the case, will pronounce the quantum of punishment on May 22. The court, however, acquitted chartered accountant Amit Goyal in the case.

Meanwhile, official sources said that the Meghalaya government is waiting for the copy of the special court judgment before taking a decision on whether to remove Kropha as Chief Secretary in view of the special court’s verdict.

Kropha, a 1982 batch Indian Administrative Service officer of the Assam-Meghalaya cadre, is due to superannuate on December 19 and has taken a two-week leave. The ruling Congress-led Meghalaya United Alliance government appointed him to the post on February 29, 2016.

Meanwhile, Additional Chief Secretary Yeshi Tsering has been appointed as the acting Chief Secretary.

In its judgment, the Special Court said, "They (accused officials) certainly exploited this situation by abusing their offices… in order to procure allocation of Thesgora B/Rudrapuri coal block in favour of KSSPL by also withholding all material information regarding non-compliance with the guidelines from the (then) Prime Minister and Coal Minister (Manmohan Singh)."

Gupta maintained during his trial that he had "no dominion" over the natural resource and that Manmohan Singh — as Coal Minister — had given the final approval for the allocation of the said coal block.

The CBI countered his claim, saying that Manmohan Singh was "kept in the dark" and that it was Gupta who "misled" officials of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The court said: "While forwarding the file to (then) Prime Minister, as Minister of Coal, for approval of the recommendation of the Screening Committee, it was nowhere mentioned by any of the ministry officers, much less by Gupta, that the applications have not been checked for their eligibility and completeness."

"The present case clearly shows that Gupta, Kropha and Samria entered into a criminal conspiracy with KSSPL and its director Ahluwalia so as to procure allotment of a coal block in favour of KSSPL," the court judgement said.

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