In a U-turn, ex-Coal Secretary HC Gupta, an accused in several coal scam cases, on Saturday, withdrew his application seeking to pull out a personal bail bond in a case involving MP-based Kamal Sponge Steel and Power Ltd (KSSPL) and others and face trial from jail.
Gupta told Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar that he would continue to engage a lawyer to represent him in the case, retracting from his earlier submission that he was facing financial constraints and could not manage the advocate’s fees from his pension amount. The court allowed Gupta to withdraw his plea.
On 16 August, while moving his application, Gupta had said he did not wish to examine any witness in his defence in the case and intended to face the trial from inside the jail.
The court, after extensive enquiry from him and his family members about the reasons for filing such a plea, had said he could be provided services of an advocate from New Delhi Legal Aid Services Authority or an amicus curiae can be appointed on his behalf. Gupta had then refused to avail of such services.
Despite being given time by court to rethink on his plea, he had maintained his stand then, saying “government gives pension which is good enough to live a retired life but there is no way that fees of advocates can be paid in such large number of cases from pension.
Moreover, I don’t want to have an advocate whose fee I cannot pay. I don’t want to take such obligation at this stage of my life.”
Gupta had also maintained in his application that “coal block allocation was no scam.”
Regarding his fellow bureaucrats in the coal ministry, Gupta said that officials who worked with him during the coal blocks allocation had “unimpeachable integrity” but many of them were facing trial now.
“I would urge the government to think of these officers who are still in service and are facing trials. They have no money to hire the services of advocates. I think it is time the government recognises its honest officers and protects them rather than prosecuting them,” he had said.
The court, which is currently recording the statements of defence witnesses in the case, had earlier granted bail to Gupta, the then Joint Secretary of Coal KS Kropha, the then Director (Coal Allocation-I section) K C Samaria and two officials of KSSPL in the case.
In May, the court had dismissed Gupta’s plea seeking joint trial in several cases against him in related to the matter, saying all the matters were at different stages.
On 8 August, the Supreme Court has also rejected his plea for conducting joint trial in the cases in which he has been arrayed as an accused.