Charges to be Framed Against Jindal, Others in Coal Scam
Ex-minister Dasari Narayana Rao and J’khand ex-CM Madhu Koda also face charges
New Delhi: A special court ordered the framing of criminal charges against industrialist Naveen Jindal, former coal minister Dasari Narayana Rao, erstwhile Jharkhand chief minister Madhu Koda and former coal secretary HC Gupta in the alleged conspiracy and corruption over allocation of coal blocks.
The rare instance of criminal charges being filed against a leading businessman along with a former top bureaucrat and prominent politicians is the latest fallout of the controversial free distribution of mines, which the Comptroller and Auditor General ( CAG) had estimated as being worth .₹ 1.86 lakh crore. Many of these coal blocks were auctioned by the government after the Supreme Court cancelled the allocation, leaving firms stranded with thousands of crores of investments that depended on coal from these mines.
Friday’s court order involves alleged irregularities in the allotment of Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block in Jharkhand to Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (JSPL) and Gagan Sponge Iron. Suresh Singhal, one of the accused, has sought a plea bargain, while the rest have denied the allegations.
Special CBI judge Bharat Parashar ordered that charges be framed against all accused under sections of the Indian Penal Code pertaining to criminal conspiracy and cheating, and various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act.
In April last year, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had filed a charge sheet against Jindal, Koda, Rao and Gupta along with six other individuals, levelling charges of criminal conspiracy, cheating and corruption. The agency had named five private firms – JSPL, Gagan Sponge, Jindal Realty, Sowbhagya Media and New Delhi Exim – in the charge sheet.
According to the agency, there was sufficient evidence to frame charges against the accused. It has alleged that the accused had conspired to get the coal block allocated in favour of the two Jindal group firms.
“We deny all allegations made against our company and its management. We have full faith in the Indian judicial system and are confident to come out clean during the process. The said allocation was made to the company purely on merits,” a JSPL statement said.
The other accused are Jindal Realty director Rajeev Jain, Gagan Sponge directors Girish Kumar Suneja and Radha Krishna Saraf, New Delhi Exim Pvt Ltd director Singhal, Sowbhagya Media managing director K Ramakrishna Prasad and the company’s chartered accountant Gyan Swaroop Garg.
The court issued notices to CBI and 14 accused on the plea by Singhal for a pardon and turning approver in the case. Singhal filed the application on April 21, seeking to make a disclosure statement that was later recorded by a magistrate and placed before the special judge in a sealed envelope.
“Trial proceedings in this case would be appropriate to be conducted after adjudication of this issue,” the court said and fixed May 11 for hearing submissions from CBI and the accused on Singhal’s plea.
Jindal, Rao, Koda and others have denied the allegations and sought to be discharged from the case.
In its charge sheet, CBI has alleged that JSPL and Gagan Sponge misrepresented facts pertaining to land, water supply and past coal allocation to acquire the Amarkonda Murgadangal coal block. CBI said the group in its application submitted in January 2007 for the block claimed it had three coal blocks while it had six. After block allotment, Jindal’s New Delhi Exim bought shares in Rao’s Saubhagya Media at .₹ 100 apiece, investing .₹ 2.25 crore, it said.