Black deeds

The filing of a First Information Report (FIR), formally charging Congress MP and prominent industrialist, Naveen Jindal, and a former minister of state for coal, Dasari Narayana Rao, is the most important step taken by the CBI after it started investigations into the coal block allocation scam.

It did not receive much public attention amidst the noise created by BJP leader LK Advani’s resignation. Jindal is a high-profile MP and had all along, with his company, denied that any special favours were granted by the government to him. The house and offices of Dasari, who was also a businessman before he joined politics, were raided by the CBI. Dasari has also denied any wrongdoing. The CBI charge is that Jindal’s company bought shares of a company owned by Dasari at a price much higher than the market price as  illegal gratification for allocation of coal blocks. The amount involved was Rs 2.25 crore.
The MP and the former minister cannot be pronounced guilty before the charge is proved in a court. But there are credible circumstances that point to wrongdoing.

The purchase of shares by Jindal’s company in Dasari’s firm is unnatural. If it was a normal business deal both should have made it public as members of parliament have to do about their dealings. Since the minister was in charge when the allocation for Jindal was made,  there is reason to believe that the latter was rewarding him for that. The deal is similar to the method of payment of suspected bribes in the 2G scandal. Dasari was coal minister during the period when many arbitrary coal block allocations were made. The CAG has put the cost tag of these allocations at 1.86 lakh crore.  The CBI’s investigations are under the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, and after the recent rap it got from the court, it may be expected that it will be more  careful.

An FIR against a former minister who was in the ministry  then headed by the prime minister is a blot on the government. It is the latest embarrassment for a government which has  seen many of its ministers getting tainted by corruption charges.  Jindal is also not the first Congress MP to face charges. The series of charges have created the impression that the government was an arrangement to distribute and share spoils and patronage among powerful people.  But it must be ensured that the illegalities will not go unpunished.

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