TOPIC OF THE DAY:-“Coal Comeuppance”

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.


1) Arguably

Meaning: Used when stating an opinion or belief that you think can be shown to be true.

Example: He is arguably the world’s best football player.

Synonyms: Debatably, Disputably.

Antonyms: Assuredly, Authentically.

2) Arbitrary

Meaning: Based on chance rather than being planned or based on reason.

Example: He played a few arbitrary notes on the piano, to try it out.

Synonyms: Despotic, Absolute

Antonyms: Rational, Deliberate

3) Convictions

Meaning: The fact of officially being found to be guilty of a particular crime, or the act of officially finding someone guilty.

Example: He has a long record of previous convictions for similar offences.

Synonyms: Ideology, Creeds.

Antonyms: Disbeliefs, Doubter.

4) Halted

Meaning: To (cause to) stop moving or doing something or happening.

Example: Security forces halted the demonstrators by blocking the road.

Synonyms: Ceased, Stayed.

Antonyms: Activated, Accelerated.

5) Abusing

Meaning: To use something for the wrong purpose in a way that is harmful or morally wrong.

Example: She is continually abusing her position/authority by getting other people to do things for her.

Synonyms: Degrading, Defiling.

Antonyms: Caring, Cherishing.

6) Manipulated

Meaning: To control something or someone to your advantage, often unfairly or dishonestly.

Example: Throughout her career she has very successfully manipulated the media.

Synonyms: Plied, Rigged.

Antonyms: Clarified, Concealed.

7) Discretion

Meaning: The quality of behaving or speaking in such a way as to avoid causing offence or revealing confidential information.

Example: She knew she could rely on his discretion.

Synonyms: Caution, Wisdom.

Antonyms: Indecency, Crudeness.

8) Indictment

Meaning: A formal statement of accusing someone.

Example: The charges on the indictment include murder and attempted murder.

Synonyms: Accusation, Allegation.

Antonyms: Vindication, Apology.

9) Conspiracy

Meaning: The activity of secretly planning with other people to do something bad or illegal.

Example: The three men are accused of conspiracy.

Synonyms: Intrigue, Cabal.

Antonyms: Accuracy, Reliability.

10) Deliberate

Meaning: Done consciously and intentionally.

Example: A deliberate attempt to provoke conflict.

Synonyms: Ponder, Cogitate.

Antonyms: Abrupt, Impulsive.

11) Polarised

Meaning: Restrict the vibrations of (a transverse wave, especially light) wholly or partially to one direction.

Example: Some of the light is polarized so that it vibrates in only one plane.

Synonyms: Converse, Contrary.

12) Rallied

Meaning: (of troops) come together again in order to continue fighting after a defeat or dispersion.

Example: De Montfort’s troops rallied and drove back the king’s infantry.

Synonyms: Assembled, Converged.

Antonyms: Disperse, Ruin.

13) Pursue

Meaning: To follow someone or something, usually to try to catch him, her, or it.

Example: The car was pursued by helicopters.

Synonyms: Haunt, Trace.

Antonyms: Retreat, Shun.

14) Assailed

Meaning: To attack someone violently or criticize someone strongly.

Example: He was assailed with insults and abuse as he left the court.

Synonyms: Mugged, Barraged.

Antonyms: Defended, Protected.

15) Spotlight

Meaning: (of a person) receiving a lot of public attention.

Example: The senator has been in the spotlight recently since the revelation of his tax frauds.

Synonyms: Accentuate, Emphasize.

Antonyms: Periphery, Ambience.