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Coal comeuppance: on coal block allocation case

The coal block allocation case may become a benchmark for other ongoing prosecutions

It is arguably the logical consequence of the 2014 Supreme Court order declaring all coal block allocations made since 1993 illegal and arbitrary.The conviction of three Coal Ministry officials, including former Secretary H.C. Gupta, marks the first case in which individual criminal liability has been fixed on public servants in the coal block scam. Two previous trials had ended in convictions, but those held guilty were officials of private companies who had deceived the authorities into allotting them blocks. Mr. Gupta was the chairperson of the screening committee that recommended allocations. It functioned for years without regard for guidelines, norms or transparency, until the apex court halted its irregular run. He and two other public servants have been found guilty of abusing their positions to procure a coal block for Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Limited. While it was fairly clear that the screening committee route was only a mechanism to push through the applications of all and sundry for coal blocks, especially under the first UPA government, it was not certain if it could be proved beyond reasonable doubt that public servants had manipulated the system to their advantage. Special CBI Court Judge Bharat Parashar has now ruled that Coal Ministry officials deliberately allowed an incomplete application from an ineligible company to be taken up for consideration. Far from ‘screening’ applications, he finds that the accused actually let all applications pass without any checking so that “they will have an open field to arbitrarily exercise their discretion in favour of any company”.

The verdict is a studied indictment of government processes, or the lack of processes, during the period. Looking at the prosecution charges and the defence claims, it appears there was little clarity on whether the guidelines were being adhered to. The former Secretary and Joint Secretary said in their defence they could not verify applications for completeness and eligibility, as it was the job of the section concerned. The section says this is the job of the administrative ministry or the State government to which applications are forwarded. Other omissions include the failure to evolve any inter se criteria to decide eligibility, or to do any verification either before or after the screening committee recommended allocations to the Minister. Whether there was a conspiracy between the officials and the company and whether the prosecution proved that these omissions amounted to deliberate abuse of their positions will be matters that will, no doubt, be taken up on appeal; but the significance of the verdict is that it may become a benchmark for other ongoing prosecutions on similar lines. The case also raises questions about the role and responsibility of a Secretary to the government, who is not only the administrative head of a department but also an adviser to the Minister on matters of policy.  Source : THE HINDU

IMPORTANT WORDS FORM ARTICLE & THEIR MEANING

1) Arbitrary (मनमाना) - Ar-bit-ary

Meaning - based on random choice or personal whim, rather than any reason or system - Adjective
Synonyms - whimsical, erratic
Antonyms - consistent, logical
Example - In spite of the cold weather, we made an arbitrary trip to the beach.

2) Conviction (दोषसिद्धि) - Con-vic-tion

Meaning - a formal declaration by the verdict of a jury or the decision of a judge in a court of law that someone is guilty of a criminal offence - Noun
Synonyms - confidence, faith
Antonyms - distrust, doubt
Example - His argument does not carry much conviction.

3) Deceived (धोखा) - Dis-eve-ed

Meaning - deliberately cause (someone) to believe something that is not true, especially for personal gain - Verb
Synonyms - defraud, cheat
Antonyms - betrayed, conned
Example - He deceived us into the belief that he was an honest man.

4) Manipulated (चालाकी से) - Mani-pew-lated

Meaning - handle or control (a tool, mechanism, information, etc.) in a skilful manner - Verb
Synonyms - operate, handle
Antonyms - destroy, idle
Example - They believe that voters can be easily manipulated.

5) Discretion (विवेक) - Dis-cre-tion

Meaning - the quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offence or revealing confidential information - Noun
Synonyms - caution, carefulness
Antonyms - disregard, ignorance
Example - I hope I may trust to your discretion.

6) Indictment (अभियोग) - In-dict-ment

Meaning - a formal charge or accusation of a serious crime - Noun
Synonyms - allegation, charge
Antonyms - praise, absolution
Example - He handed up the indictment to the supreme court.

7) Adhered (पालन) - Ad-here-ed

Meaning - stick fast to (a surface or substance) - Verb
Synonyms - stick, cling
Example - I have adhered strictly to the rules.

8) Conspiracy (साजिश) - Cons-pi-racy

Meaning - a secret plan by a group to do something unlawful or harmful - Noun
Synonyms - plot, scheme
Antonyms - loyalty, honesty
Example - The three men are accused of conspiracy.

9) Faustian (फास्टिय) - Fos-ton

Meaning - relating to or resembling Faust, a German astronomer and necromancer reputed to have sold his soul to the Devil - Adjective
Example (English) - It seems that he has struck a Faustian pact with the devil so he gets all the money in the world in exchange for his soul.
Example (Hindi) - ऐसा लगता है कि उन्होंने यमराज के साथ फास्टिय सौदा कर लिया है जिसमें उन्हें अपनी आत्मा के बदले में दुनिया की दौलत मिलती हो।

Now considering the article above as a Reading Comprehension question, try to answer the following -
  • How did a coal block reserved for the public sector land with a private firm?
  • What does the statement represent "The verdict is a studied indictment of government processes, or the lack of processes, during the period"?
Given below are some words to check your vocabulary you can make sentences with those words in the comment section which will be reviewed by us.
  • Arguably
  • Halted
  • Procure
  • Verdict
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