The CBI on Thursday grilled Congress’s Lok Sabha member and industrialist Naveen Jindal for several hours in the multi-crore coal allocation scandal. Two of his firms are accused of cheating to get a coal block in Jharkhand.
Jindal was grilled at an undisclosed location more than three months after the investigating agency named him and three of his firms in an FIR on June 10, HT has learnt. If needed, he may be called in for questioning again.
The scam has caused a great deal of embarrassment for the Centre, with the national auditor accusing it of arbitrarily allocating mines.
“We questioned Naveen Jindal today on allegations related to the misrepresentation and concealments of facts in the application and feedback forms by two of his firms — Jindal Steel and Power Limited and Gagan Sponge Iron Private Limited — to the Amarkonda Murgadangal block in Jharkhand,” a CBI source told HT on Thursday.
Jindal, who fought a court battle that allowed citizens to hoist the Tricolour through the year rather than just on national holidays, refused comment when contacted by HT.
The power ministry had not recommended the two firms for allocation because of their “poor preparedness” in setting up respective end-use power plants, but a screening committee gave them the block in 2008, the source said.
The firms also concealed the fact that their group companies had been allocated blocks earlier as well.
“Jindal had requested that he be questioned in a discreet manner, which the CBI accepted,” the source said.
The agency recently questioned three senior bureaucrats about allocations made during 2006-09, when Prime Minister Manmohan Snigh was also holding the coal portfolio.
“We recently questioned a former joint secretary in the PMO Vini Mahajan, PMO joint secretary Shatrughan Singh and coal ministry’s joint director AK Bhalla,” said the source.
Singh and Bhalla, who is now part of the ministry’s search committee that is looking for missing coal files, were in the news a few months ago when the CBI shared with them the draft of the probe status report that it was to submit to the Supreme Court.
“We are yet to decide on when to question TKA Nair, who was principal secretary to the Prime Minister in 2009,” the source said. Nair is an adviser to the PMO.
The agency would file an FIR if it would find that criminal intent was behind 18-odd allocation files going missing, the source said. The SC, too, has sought clarification from the government on the matter.
The agency had already questioned the then minister of state for coal Dasari Narayana Rao for allegedly favouring the two Jindal firms by influencing the screening committee’s decision in return for a bribe of R2.25 crore, the source said.
The agency is expected to file four charge sheets in the scam in the coming days.