Coal scam: CBI opposes ex-minister Dilip Ray’s plea to stay conviction

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New Delhi: The CBI on Friday opposed in the Delhi High Court a plea by former union minister Dilip Ray, who was sentenced to three-year jail term in a coal scam case pertaining to irregularities in the allocation of a Jharkhand block in 1999, seeking to grant a stay on his conviction to contest the upcoming elections.

Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma reserved the order on Ray’s application after hearing submissions from the counsel for the politician and the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).

71-year-old Ray, who was Minister of State (coal) in the erstwhile Atal Bihari Vajpayee government, urged the court to grant a stay on his conviction as he wishes to contest the upcoming Lok Sabha and Odisha Assembly elections stating this could be his last chance to serve the people of the nation or Odisha.

Senior advocate R S Cheema and lawyer Tarannum Cheema, appearing for the CBI, opposed the plea saying the case does not merit a suspension of conviction in view of the extent of corruption involved and that the matter arises out of the class of coal block allocation cases.

“The offence for which the applicant stands convicted involves moral turpitude. Hence, the applicant is not entitled to the relief. The applicant has not shown before this court the irreversible damage which would be occasioned if his conviction is not stayed,” the CBI counsel said.

The probe agency said in view of the seriousness of the offence and the insufficiency of the sentence awarded to Ray, the CBI had preferred an appeal for enhancement of his punishment before the high court which had admitted the appeal in May 2022.

Ray, who was represented through senior advocates Mukul Rohatgi and Pramod Kumar Dubey, said in the plea that by virtue of Section 8(3) of the Representation of the People Act, he stands disqualified from contesting the forthcoming national or Odisha Assembly elections or getting nominated to the Rajya Sabha which irreparably and irreversibly causes grave prejudice to him, especially considering his age.

The high court had on October 27, 2020, issued notice to the CBI on Ray’s appeal challenging his conviction and sentence and suspended his three-year jail term.

However, he had then not pressed the prayer for suspension of the order on conviction in view of the appeal being listed for final disposal. The court had dismissed the application as not pressed.

Ray has said he was now seeking the relief with regard to suspension of the order on conviction in view of the change in circumstances.

The plea said there are various connected and cross appeals and the chances of all them being heard and decided expeditiously are low keeping in mind the backlog. It said the delay in disposal is likely to cause irreparable loss to Ray, who is aged 71 years as “this may be his last chance to contest in the elections and to pursue his life goal to serve the people of the nation or Odisha”.

Ray was sentenced to three years in jail on October 26, 2020, by a trial court which had also imposed a fine of Rs 10 lakh on him.

Besides him, the trial court had also awarded three-year jail term each to two senior officials of the ministry at that time — Pradip Kumar Banerjee and Nitya Nand Gautam.

The trial court had convicted Ray of the offences of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by public servant and cheating under the IPC and provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act.

The court had said Ray “dishonestly facilitated” allocation of the abandoned non-nationalised coal mining area in favour of a company named Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL) in violation of law. The case pertains to allocation of Brahmadiha coal block in Jharkhand’s Giridih to CTL in 1999.

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