In Light of Jay Shah’s Decision to Sue The Wire, a Look At Recent Responses To Investigative Journalism in India

10 October 2017
On 8 October, the news website The Wire published a report regarding Temple Enterprise, a company owned by Jay Amitbhai Shah, the son of the BJP's national president Amit Shah. Later that day, the businessman announced that he would be suing the publication for criminal defamation, and for damages worth Rs 100 crore.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images
On 8 October, the news website The Wire published a report regarding Temple Enterprise, a company owned by Jay Amitbhai Shah, the son of the BJP's national president Amit Shah. Later that day, the businessman announced that he would be suing the publication for criminal defamation, and for damages worth Rs 100 crore.
SAM PANTHAKY/AFP/Getty Images

On 8 October, the news website The Wire published a report on the financial growth of Temple Enterprise Private Limited, a company owned by Jay Shah, the son of the national president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Amit Shah. The report stated that, according to its filings with the registrar of companies, the turnover of Jay’s company “increased 16,000 times over in the year following the election of Narendra Modi as prime minister and the elevation of his father to the post of party president.”

Citing the balance sheets and annual reports that it had filed with the RoC, the report noted that Temple Enterprise is described to have engaged in wholesale trade, and that over 95 percent of its revenues “come from the sale of agricultural products.” Further, it said, Shah’s company “engaged in negligible activity” and recorded losses of Rs 6,230 and Rs 1,724 in the financial years ending in 2013 and 2014 respectively. “In 2014-15, it showed a profit of Rs 18,728 on revenues of only Rs 50,000,” the report added. “However, in 2015-16, the firm’s revenues jumped to over Rs 80.5 crore, a growth of 16 lakh percent.” According to the filings, the report noted, in October 2016, Jay Shah’s company “suddenly stopped its business activities altogether, declaring, in its director’s report, that Temple’s net worth had ‘fully eroded’ because of the loss it posted that year of Rs 1.4 crore and its losses over earlier years.”

In addition to those of Temple Enterprise, The Wire report included details of the filings of Kusum Finserve, a limited liability partnership “incorporated in July 2015 with Jay Shah owning a 60% stake in it.” According to the report, the Indian Renewable Energy Development Agency (IREDA), a public sector unit functioning under the ministry of new and renewable energy, granted Kusum Finserve a loan of Rs 10.35 crore, to set up a wind-energy plant in Ratlam, Madhya Pradesh. At the time the loan was granted, Piyush Goyal, now the union minister for railways and coal, held the post of the minister of state (independent charge) for power, and was also minister of state (independent charge) for new and renewable energy.

A report published in National Herald—often said to be the mouthpiece of the Congress party— noted that according to the norms listed on the IREDA’s website, it can sanction loans to wind-farm projects with generational capacities of upto 1 Megawatt. Shah’s company proposed a 2.1 MW plant, the report stated. Such loans can, the IREDA website states, be given for a maximum of 70 percent of the eligible machine cost for the project. In India, the cost of installing a 1 MW wind farm typically lies between roughly Rs 4 and 7 crore. The National Herald reported noted that, even for the costliest plant, adhering to its own 70-percent cap, the maximum loan the IREDA could grant would be approximately Rs 4.9 crore. Shah’s company received nearly twice that amount.

The Wire’s report noted that in response to its queries, Jay’s lawyer Manik Dogra, speaking on his behalf, said that Jay was a “private citizen” doing “legitimate business.” Dogra added: “If you or anyone in the print, electronic or digital media carries and/or broadcasts any defamatory and/or false imputations including those which breach his fundamental right of privacy and/or defame him, Jay Shah reserves the right to prosecute and sue such person/entity.”

Sagar is a staff writer at The Caravan.

COMMENT