Naveen Jindal, the former Congress MP who runs the Jindal Steel and Power Limited, has always been a subject of enquiry. Jindal leads a $17-billion group. The 46-year-old has been in the eye of the storm since April 2015, when the CBI filed a charge sheet against him, and 14 others, in a case related to the allocation of Jharkhand’s Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block to Jindal Steel and Gagan Sponge.
The other people indicted in the court were former Minister of State for Coal, Dasari Narayana Rao, ex-Jharkhand CM Madhu Koda, and former coal secretary HC Gupta, among others. The process of investigation had been crawling until Suresh Singhal, Director of New Delhi Exim Pvt. Ltd. (NDEPL), one of the key accused in the case, agreed to become an approver this July.
Singhal was pardoned by a special court on Wednesday, and will now work as a prosecution witness. This latest development will hardly allow Jindal to sleep peacefully at night. The investigation, already much delayed, as also observed by the court, will now likely find quick closure with the arrival of Singhal into the scene. Whether the judgment will result in conviction, only time will tell.
Naveen Jindal, a suave industrialist generally seen in a bandgala or a sherwani, has quite a few feats to his credit. He was the one who moved the Supreme Court and made India’s national flag accessible for every Indian. Till then, only government offices were permitted to hoist the tricolour. It’s rather ironic that Jindal, who wore patriotism on his sleeves, is now a central figure in the scam. His actions, if proven, were an act of cheating the country, costing the state exchequer in multiple crores.
The special court has stated that “a facade of companies prima facie appear to have been created as a smokescreen to cover up the actual transfer of money so as to avoid liability under any law/rules/regulations.” Normally, a court would not make such hard-hitting, pointed statements without substantial evidence to back it up. Perhaps, there’s never smoke without fire.
Around 12 firms overstated their net worth, failed to disclose prior coal allocations, and were accused of hoarding coal allocations, rather than developing them.
When Naveen Jindal’s name first cropped up in the Coalgate scam in September 2012, it was not easy to absorb the news. Jindal had been actively involved in setting up projects that were nationalistic in character and always reflected a sense of righteousness about himself. He even ensured maximum publicity of everything that defined him as a true Indian.
But as news trickled in, it became evident that Jindal Power Limited (JPL) gained obscene profits by buying coal at really cheap rates and producing and selling electricity at exorbitant rates. The coal blocks allotted in 1998 made Naveen Jindal the largest beneficiary of the coal block allocations. Jindal’s reserves had 2,580 million metric tonnes of coal!
Because his company had the cheapest raw material but the costliest output dished out to the masses, Jindal will have a tough time defending his company and his personal image.