[Coal Scam] Delhi HC Stays Ex-Minister Dilip Ray's Conviction, Clears Path for 2024 Lok Sabha Election Contest

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The case involved the allocation of non-nationalized coal mining land in Jharkhand, leading to investigations and convictions under relevant sections of the Indian Penal Code and the Prevention of Corruption Act, against Dilip Ray, a former Minister of State for Coal

The Delhi High Court recently underscored the potential for irreversible harm that would occur if the conviction of Dilip Ray is not suspended until the pendency of his appeal. Dilip Ray filed a petition before the high court challenging the trial court's decision under Section 482 of the Criminal Procedure Code, 1973 (CrPC) with the intent to participate in the Odisha Legislative Assembly elections in 2024.

In case, the applicant‟s prayer is not allowed, he will lose chance to contest election and an irreversible consequence and irreversible damage to his political career and desire to serve his constituency will be caused to him”, the bench of Justice Swarana Kanta Sharma held. 

Represented by Senior Advocates Mukul Rohtagi and Pramod Kumar Dubey, Dilip Ray argued that circumstances had changed, even though he initially didn't press for the suspension of the conviction. The appeal had been pending for over three years, and with the upcoming national and state elections, Ray sought relief to contest. They emphasized Ray's 35-year distinguished public service and his current pivotal political juncture. They also highlighted his clean record besides this case and the significant legal and factual issues in the pending appeal.

In contrast, Special Public Prosecutor RS Cheema, representing the CBI, argued that Ray misused his position and breached trust by misappropriating coal mining land. They claimed the conviction indicated moral turpitude and suspending it would damage public confidence. They cited legal precedents setting stringent criteria for suspending convictions in corruption cases and argued that the inability to contest elections due to conviction did not justify suspension, especially in corruption cases. Thus, they urged the application's dismissal for lacking merit.

After reviewing the case materials, the court noted that the trial court sentenced Dilip Ray to three years' simple imprisonment in 2020. The court examined Ray’s role as described in the contested judgment and the reasons provided by the trial court. Thus, the court was tasked to assess whether, based on the peculiar facts and arguments, suspending Ray’s conviction would serve the interests of justice and align with established legal precedents.

In this context, the court acknowledged Ray's extensive political career, having served as both Union Minister and State Minister in the Odisha Government. At 71 years of age, Ray aimed to contest the upcoming elections in May 2024 to represent his constituency and contribute to the country. 

The court noted his desire to contest elections was not a newfound aspiration, given his longstanding political career spanning over 35 years. Considering the impending elections, Ray's age, and the procedural timeline of the case, denying Ray's prayer could result in irreparable consequences, jeopardizing his political career and aspirations to serve his constituency, court opined.

The court relying on the case of Afjal Ansari v. State of Uttar Pradesh [(2024) 2 SCC 187], reiterated that allowing the conviction to stand would cause irreparable damage to Ray, as this damage couldn't be compensated monetarily or otherwise if he was later acquitted. This situation was considered exceptional by the court, especially since Ansari's ability to retain his Parliament membership and contest future elections was at stake if his conviction wasn't suspended. 

Therefore, considering the irreversible consequences that would arise if Ray is acquitted later, the high court was inclined to grant the present application. Consequently, court stayed the order of conviction during the appeal process.


The coal allocation scandal (Coalgate) occurred during the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government's tenure in 2012, involving the flawed allocation of 194 coal blocks. Highlighted by the Comptroller and Auditor General of India (CAG), it led to substantial losses for the exchequer and undue benefits for public and private entities due to lack of transparency.

The CAG criticized the absence of competitive bidding, raised concerns about political favoritism, and highlighted instances of surplus allocations and unauthorized coal sales. Initially estimated at Rs. 10.6 lakh crore loss, the final report revised this figure to Rs. 1.86 lakh crore.

The government cited coalition politics and opposed revenue maximization through auctions. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh refuted misconduct allegations. The BJP's complaint prompted CBI investigations, leading to an Inter-Ministerial Group (IMG) recommendation for de-allocation of underutilized coal blocks.

Case Title: Dilip Ray v Central Bureau Of Investigation (2024:DHC:2823)