BHUBANESWAR: A CBI court in Delhi on Tuesday convicted Dilip Ray, then Union minister of state for coal in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government, for irregularities in allocation of a coal block in Jharkhand 21 years ago in 1999.
Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar convicted Ray for criminal conspiracy (IPC 120-B), cheating ((420 IPC) and criminal breach of trust (409 IPC) and under sections of Prevention of Corruption Act. The court also convicted Pradip Kumar Banerjee (then additional secretary in coal ministry), Nitya Nand Gautam (then advisor-projects in the ministry), Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL)’s director Mahendra Kumar Agarwalla besides two firms, CTL and Castron Mining.
Ray didn’t respond to TOI’s request for his reaction to the conviction. The court has set October 14 date for pronouncing its punishment.
A founder member of BJD, 64-year-old Ray became a Union minister when BJD was an NDA ally. He was a Rajya Sabha member then. The BJD expelled him from the party in 2002 after he defied party’s dictate and re-contested for a second term in the upper house as independent. He had managed to win.
The hotelier-politician was elected to the state assembly thrice, as Janata Dal candidate in 1985 and 1990 and as BJP nominee in 2014. Ray had joined BJP in 2009 but resigned from the party in 2018, speculated as a reaction to charges being framed against him the central probe agency. A close aide of Biju Patnaik, he was a minister in Biju’s cabinet in Odisha from 1990-1995. Currently, he is not active in any party politics.
Castron Technologies Ltd (CTL) had applied to the coal ministry for allotment of Brahmadiha coal block in May 1998 for extracting coal and use for washery and power generation. The Coal India Limited (CIL) gave an adverse opinion against the allocation in August 1998. The CIL told the coal ministry that mining in the abandoned Brahmadiha area filled with water would pose a threat to nearby other coal mining areas of Central Coal Fields where underground mining were being done.
The file was then sent to Ray’s office on April 23, 1999. The CTL made a representation to Ray for speedy consideration of their application on May 12, 1999. A day later on May 13, Ray sent the file to then coal ministry officials with an endorsement to re-examine it. The officials gave their nod to the file after which the 14th screening committee recommended the allocation. After that Ray gave his final approval. The government allotted the block to CTL on September 1, 1999.
Following Supreme Court direction on alleged irregularities in coal block allocations, CBI registered an FIR against Ray in September 2012. Charges were framed against Ray in April 2017.