File image of HC Gupta | Twitter
File image of HC Gupta | Twitter
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HC Gupta’s son Sarthak says his father’s legal tribulations over the coal scam have been ‘disheartening’, but he is driven to enter the IAS.

New Delhi: Former coal secretary H.C. Gupta’s legal tribulations over the coal scam have not weakened his 26-year-old son’s desire to be an “upright and helpful” IAS officer “just like my father”.

Gupta, an IAS officer of the 1971 batch, was taken into custody last week after being handed out his latest conviction in a case stemming from irregularities in the allocation of two West Bengal coal blocks under UPA-II. Two other IAS officers were convicted as well.

Speaking to ThePrint days later, Gupta’s son Sarthak said that although his father’s struggles over the past six years had been “disheartening”, he had been preparing for the civil services exam until recently.

“I had been studying for civil services, but I did not clear the exam, so as of now, I’m looking for a job,” said Sarthak, who now lives alone with his 65-year old mother.

“Right from when I can remember, my father told me that through the civil services, you can help several people, and you don’t have to bend in front of anyone as long as you are honest,” he added.


Also read: H.C. Gupta’s conviction in coal scam case will force IAS officers to play safe


‘A natural choice’

“I still remember how so many people would come to my father to thank him for something he had done for them without [taking] any favour while the rest of the system remained unresponsive,” he said. “So wanting to be like that was a natural choice for me.”

Named after the Hindu mythological king Harishchandra, who was known for his honesty and integrity, Gupta turned 70 just days ago, on 25 November. He served as the coal secretary from 2006 to 2008.

In 2008, he would have envisioned a peaceful post-retirement life with his wife and son.

However, in 2012, as a beleaguered UPA-II grappled with multiple corruption charges, Gupta found himself at the centre of the Rs 1.86 lakh crore coal scam. He now faces 12 cases, of which he has been convicted in two.

Over the years, Sarthak told ThePrint, his father’s peers in the civil services had often told him that the job was not worth the grind.

“A lot of my father’s colleagues and our well-wishers told me that it’s not worth it, that in the service, there are hundreds who will act against you if you try to do something,” he said.

“They would say that as an officer, one is either expected to be corrupt or sit over files.

“But my parents never stopped or discouraged me from preparing for the exam, despite everything,” he added.

“When all of this just began in 2012, we were confident that he will come out unscathed because he was honest and always worked in the interest of the public,” Sarthak said. “We never imagined that things would come to this pass.”


Also read: India needs Reforms 2.0 to save both bureaucracy and good IAS officers like H.C. Gupta


‘Perception guided by media outrage’

Sarthak added that his father and the other coal scam convicts were likely just made scapegoats.

“But it appears that because there was supposedly such a big scam, someone had to be pulled up, so they have randomly picked on three officers who don’t have any political connections for the sake of convenience,” he added.

Yet, his father had not lost hope, he told ThePrint. “If you talk to him, he will always say that God is testing him, and all this will end…” he said. “We are disheartened yet, but we hope we will get justice from the high court. My father has full faith in God.”

Gupta’s peers have termed the decision “miscarriage of justice” and continue to swear by his honesty and integrity.

While the IAS Association has fully backed Gupta, and started collecting money to help him in his legal battle, Sarthak said his father had earlier categorically refused financial help. “He won’t accept it,” he added.

However, the family could do with other kinds of support, he said. “The association can make a representation before the judiciary…” Sarthak added. “Just laying down the basic facts… Because with regard to the coal case, it appears that the perception is guided by media outrage and not so much by facts.”

While some individual officers have stood by his father through the years, he said the association could do more, given the extent to which his father has been “harassed”.

Gupta and the two officers, as well as the three others convicted in the instant case, are set to be sentenced Wednesday. Although Gupta’s counsel has requested a lenient sentence given his age and health ailments, the road ahead looks long and difficult for the retired IAS officer.

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