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Jail for 29 in stone-for-coal scam

Dhanbad, Jan. 28: A court today handed prison terms to as many as 29 people, including several officials of two public sector units — the Bharat Coking Coal Limited and the Fertiliser Corporation of India — in a scandal in which boulders and ash were passed off as coal.

Five officials of the BCCL, including the then general manager of the company’s area IX, Bharat Singh, were sentenced to two-and-a-half-years each after being held guilty. The court said both sentences would run concurrently.

Nine other officials of the coal company were sentenced to two years’ simple imprisonment.

Nine officials of the Fertiliser Corporation were found guilty by the court under Section 420 and 120-B of IPC and were awarded terms of two-and-a-half years.

The court also sentenced six officials of a private coal testing company, Karam Chand Thapar (KCT), to two-and-a-half years’ imprisonment after finding them guilty under Section 418 of IPC and to another two-and-a-half years under Section 120-B of IPC. The officials include the private company’s chief executive Baldeo Prasad Jhanjhi.

Two officials — the then general manager of FCI D.. Prasad and the then area manager of BCCL Akhilesh Kumar Singh — were acquitted for lack of evidence.

All the 29 persons sentenced today by the sub-divisional judicial magistrate, R.K. Singh, were later released on bail for one month on a personal bond of Rs 1,000 each.

Altogether 17 witnesses had deposed before the court during the course of trial which began in 1999 — five years after the FIR was lodged with Sindri police station. Out of the 33 accused, two died during the trial.

The case relates to the supply of ash and coal from the BCCL collieries to the Fertiliser Corporation plant at Sindri. The scam was detected when the jawans of the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) intercepted a consignment of coal. Two wagons were found containing boulders and ash.

“I will move the superior court against the acquittal of Prasad and Singh. What I feel is that the prosecution put up a weak effort to establish charges against the accused persons. My statement can be corroborated with the observations of the district and sessions judge of Dhanbad against the assistant public prosecutor,” lawyer Ramashray Singh told reporters.

Singh had filed a petition to speed up the case. Singh alleged that a section of officials of the BCCL in connivance with the accused officials of the Fertiliser Corporation supplied the boulders to hide a huge stock shortage in the coal company.

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