Embroiled in Coalgate, But Praised For Honesty: Who Is HC Gupta?
Former coal secretary HC Gupta. 
Former coal secretary HC Gupta. (Photo: PTI)

Embroiled in Coalgate, But Praised For Honesty: Who Is HC Gupta?

One of the names that has been the most widely brought up when discussing the coal scam in the country has been that of former coal secretary HC Gupta. The 1971-batch IAS officer has been facing several cases in this regard for the last several years.

And on Wednesday, 13 December, a special CBI court held the former coal secretary guilty in a coal allocation and mining scam from Jharkhand. Former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda was also convicted in the case, for which the sentencing and the quantum of punishment will be pronounced on 14 December.

Also Read : Jharkhand’s Youngest CM, Now a Convict: Who is Madhu Koda?

Embroiled in Coalgate

Wednesday’s verdict against Gupta comes just months after a CBI court sentenced him to two years in prison for a case pertaining to alleged irregularities in allocation of Thesgora-B Rudrapur coal block in Madhya Pradesh to Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) on 22 May 2017.

Notably, at that time, there were ten more coal scam cases pending against Gupta and the proceedings were going on separately.

Defended by Other Govt Officials

Interestingly, despite Gupta being named in many coalgate cases, several government officials, alongside the IAS Association, have come out in support of him, especially in 2016. They praised him for his "honesty and sincerity" and some even asked for an amendment to the law, specifically the Prevention of Corruption Act, to prevent officers like Gupta from being unfairly targeted and punished.

Moreover, Gupta himself, after being convicted for one of the coal scam cases in March 2017, reportedly said that the government should ensure the protection of honest officers.

He was quoted by the Times of India as saying:

The government should see officers’ conduct and service, and protect the honest ones.

Also Read : Submissive to Outspoken: Bureaucracy in Solidarity With HC Gupta

Why Was Gupta Held Guilty in the Latest Case?

The scam, for which the verdict was announced on Wednesday, pertains to alleged irregularities in allocation of coal blocks to companies in Jharkhand. The CBI and ED alleged that ex-Jharkhand CM Koda took bribes for illegally allotting coal and mining contracts during his tenure as Chief Minister.

The mining case predominantly deals with a Kolkata-based firm named Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd (VISUL).

According to the CBI, Gupta, who was the chairman of the screening committee in charge of the allocation, had concealed from then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was then heading the coal ministry as well, that Jharkhand had not recommended VISUL for allocation of a coal block.

The CBI court hearing the case reportedly said on 15 June 2015 that Gupta had prima facie “acted in violation of the trust imposed in him by law and facilitated allocation of impugned coal block in favour of VISUL.”

The court further observed that Gupta’s role cannot be “strictly bracketed merely as that of an advisor” to the minister-in-charge, hence charging him to be equally responsible for the administrative functioning of the ministry.

Also Read : Explained: The Tale of Madhu Koda and the Coal Mining Scam

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