White collar crimes are far more dangerous to the society than ordinary crimes, said the special CBI court that sent former Jharkhand Chief Minister Madhu Koda and co-convicts behind bars for three years while directing them to cough up varying amounts of fine, the highest being Rs 50 lakh imposed on Kolkata-based Vini Iron and Steel Udyog Ltd, followed by Rs 25 lakh imposed on Koda and Vijay Joshi.
Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar sentenced Koda, former Coal Secretary HC Gupta, former Jharkhand Chief Secretary Ashok Kumar Basu and major shareholder of Visul Vijay to three-year imprisonment for their involvement in the multi-crore coal block allocation scam concerning the irregularities in allocation of Rajhara North coal block in Jharkhand in January, 2007 to Visul, even as it did not meet the criterion for the allocation.
During the hearing on arguments on quantum of sentence, all convicts pleaded for leniency and urged the court to not impose hefty fines citing their weak financial position.
Advocate Harsh K Sharma, founder of Prosoll Law Inc, along with advocate Vaibhavi Sharma and advocate Rohit Gaur, appeared for VISUL and its shareholder Vijay Joshi and submitted that he is the majority shareholder and has no role in the functioning of private firm Visul.
He also pleaded for leniency saying Joshi is the sole bread earner of the family and his daughter’s wedding is about to be fixed. He also told the court that he is in a poor financial condition as it had also come on record during recording of evidence that he has not been able to pay for the shares of Vini till date.
He also submitted that the financial condition of the company is not good and it won’t be able to pay hefty fine, if imposed.
Both HC Gupta and Ashok Kumar Basu prayed for leniency citing their age and service tendered in high ranks of the government administration.
Madhu Koda’s counsel submitted that his conduct has been above board during the trial and, therefore, a lenient view should be adopted by the court.
CBI counsel, on the other hand, stated that this was a classic case of corruption involving highly-placed political persons. He said such white collar crimes have to be dealt with strongly and taking any lenient view will have wrong impact in the long run and would not be in societal interest.
The court said the “sentence of punishment certainly poses a complex problem which requires a balancing act between the competing views based on the reformative, the deterrent as well as the retributive theories of punishment”.
Stressing on the long felt necessity of there being a proportion between offences and punishment, the court said: “It has also been observed that principle of there being proportion between punishment and offences is not to be so mathematically followed up as to render the laws subtle, complicated and obscured.”
“Of late, anti-social activities of persons of upper socio-economic state of society in their occupation and which have come to be known as white collar crimes have attracted attention.
“White collar crimes are in fact more dangerous to the society than ordinary crimes firstly because financial losses are much higher and secondly because of the damages infected on public morale. Average loss from ordinary crimes such as burglar, larcenies may run into few thousands rupees only but the loss with white collar crimes cause Run not only in lacs but crores of Rupees,” the judge said.
To find criminality in such acts is often a difficult task because they are committed after much deliberations and planning undertaken by well-trained minds having a higher status in the society, he said, adding explanation for such behaviour is greed and last to acquire maximum material resources in the name of their business taking benefit of open competition, economy and independent behaviour.
The court then sentenced all convicts to three-year jail term. Gupta and Basu were slapped a fine of Rs 1 lakh each.