New Delhi, October 27: In a major relief for former Union minister of state for coal Dilip Ray, who was sentenced to three years on Monday in a coal block scam case, the Delhi High Court on Tuesday suspended his sentencing and ordered that Ray will remain on bail.

Dilip Ray, along with three others, was given a rigorous three-year jail term by Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar on Monday for allegedly conspiring to allocate Brahmadiha coal block in Giridih, Jharkhand to a private company – Castron Technologies Ltd in 1999 despite the fact that it was a ‘caretaker’ government at the Centre at that time, which should not have taken a major policy decision, the Hindustan Times reported.

Advocate Vijay Aggarwal, appearing for Ray, sought urgent intervention of the high court in the matter terming his client’s conviction and sentencing as illegal.

Justice Suresh Kumar Kait agreed to hear the matter on an urgent basis despite being on vacation. The judge suspended the sentencing and listed the appeal for hearing on November 25, to which the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) didn’t object.

Aggarwal had challenged both – the conviction dated October 6 and sentencing on Monday of Ray by Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar.

The high court refused to stay the conviction but suspended the sentencing, while agreeing to hear the appeal on the next hearing on November 25.

Aggarwal argued that the conviction was wrong on facts and that the conviction, the first under section 409 IPC (criminal breach of trust) in Coal Scam Cases, was contradictory to the law laid down by the three-member bench judgement in common causes versus union of India matter in 1999, where in it was held that a minister merely having power to allot will not be deemed to have been entrusted with the property. 

He further pointed out that Special CBI Judge’s judgement ignored fact that the allocated mine was abandoned since 1916. Aggarwal further argued that his client was not given an opportunity by the trial court to explain certain circumstances. “My client has been convicted on the vicarious responsibility of being a minister in charge of a caretaker government and that there was no evidence against him whatsoever. In case such a conviction is permitted to stand, then any person can be convicted for any offence on the ground that he had a responsibility to do something,” Aggarwal argued.

He further informed the high court that the conviction can destroy the political career of Ray; hence the appeal needs to be heard “expeditiously” so as to clear the name of his client.

Ray was part of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government that was acting as a caretaker government when this particular allocation was approved.

In his conviction judgement on October 6, Parashar said: “Undoubtedly, the approval of said guidelines for allotment of captive coal blocks for opencast mining and underground mining amounts to taking a major policy decision and which Dilip Ray as part of a Caretaker government should not have taken. The question which however requires examination is as to whether the impugned decision was necessary for day to day administration or it could have waited till the new elected government was formed”.

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