Harshad Mehta was an infamous Bombay-based stockbroker who fraudulently drew capital out of banks and used it to artificially manipulate the price of shares at the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE). He took advantage of the loopholes in the banking system and the stock market to carry out what is still regarded as the biggest ever Indian securities scandal. That securities scam of worth Rs 4000 crores is equivalent to 24000 crores in 2020. Harshad Mehta was convicted of his crimes and lodged in a prison in 1998, and later died of a heart attack in 2001.
Harshad Mehta was born on Thursday, 29 July 1954 (age 47 years; at the time of death) in Paneli Moti, Rajkot, Gujrat. He spent his early childhood years in Kandivali, where his father used to run a small textile business. Later, his family moved to Raipur, where Harshad completed his schooling. He returned to Mumbai and graduated in B.Com from Lala Lajpat Rai College in 1976.
Harshad Mehta was born into a middle-class Gujarati Jain family.
Parents & Siblings
His father, Shantilal Mehta, ran a small textile business, whereas his mother, Rasilaben Mehta, was a homemaker. He had three siblings – Sudhir Mehta, Hitesh Mehta & Ashwin Mehta. Harshad’s brother, Ashwin Mehta, was also a stockbroker in Harshad’s firm. Ashwin completed his law degree at the age of 50 and he himself fought all the cases pending against him.
Relationships, Wife & Children
Harshad Mehta was married to Jyoti Mehta. The couple together has a son, Atur Mehta. While you can spot various family pictures of Harshad Mehta, but there is no photo of his son Atur Mehta, as he was never brought into the limelight.
Besides studying B.Com at Lala Lajpatrai College, Mumbai, Mehta was engaged in several odd jobs which were often related to selling cement, categorising diamonds, and so on. He also worked as a salesman in the New India Assurance Company Limited. During this time, he got so much interested in the stock market that, in 1980, he resigned from the existing job and started working for P. Ambalal, a stockbroker affiliated to the Bombay Stock exchange (BSE). After working there for a year, in 1991, he joined a lower clerical job at Harjivandas Nemidas Securities, a brokerage firm. This was the firm where he met broker Prasann Pranjivandas, who was known as his “guru”. After accumulating enough knowledge about the working of the share market, in 1984, Harshad started his own stock brokerage firm by the name “GrowMore Research and Asset Management.” By 1990, Harshad had already created an aura which inspired a significant number of people to invest in his firm & utilise his services. He went from Rags to riches in no time and earned thousands of crores of rupees through his deeds. His image was so heightened by the media, that it earned him several epithets, such as “The Amitabh Bachchan of the stock market, & The Big Bull”. With a sea-facing 15,000 square feet penthouse in Mumbai’s Worli, he also had a collection of fancy cars, which included an imported Toyota Lexus worth 40 lakh rupees during that time.
The 1992 Securities Scam & Exposure
The Scam: Until the early 90s banks were not allowed to invest in the stock market. Harshad, who had connections with the superior officials of banks, offered the banks higher interest rates to transfer the amount directly into his personal account. He also approached the banks that issued fake Bank Receipts (BR) on his name. After cunningly drawing capital from banks, he used to invest the enormous amount of money in buying a few selected shares that would consequently increase the price of those shares. This would lure other investors to also invest in those particular shares, which would elevate the price of those shares even higher. For instance, In 1991, Harshad invested in the shares of Associated Cement Company (ACC) and took its share price from Rs 200 to Rs 9000 (4500 percent incline). After the price of the shares would rise exponentially, he anonymously used to sell off his shares pocket the huge profit.
The Exposure: The lavish lifestyle of Mehta intrigued a journalist Sucheta Dalal and how in such a small span he achieved so much. The Harshad Mehta Scam started to fall apart after Sucheta published a story on the unethical methods Mehta used to manipulate the share prices in a column in The Times Of India on 23 April 1992. She revealed how Harshad Mehta had defrauded Rs 5 billion from State Bank of India by making an SGL receipt disappear.
Impact of the Scam
On the Stock Market
The scam of 1992 had a huge impact on the capital market and banking system of the country. As the scam was unmasked, the Sensex which stood at 4467 points in January 1992, suddenly crashed to 2529 points in the month of August. It wiped off more than ₹100,000 crores from the money market.
On the Banking System
After the scam got exposed, banks were left with invalid BR’s and a whopping INR 4,000 crores loss. It also contributed to the suicide of the chairman of Vijaya Bank, Mr B.B Shetty, who had reportedly issued fake cheques to Harshad Mehta.
On the Political Environment
After the scam was exposed, fingers were pointed towards a number of politicians, RBI Governor S. Venkitaramanan, brokers like Pallav Sheth, Ajay Kayan, and industrialists like Aditya Birla. The political environment also heated up when Harshad Mehta held a press conference wherein he claimed to have paid INR 1 crore to the sitting PM of India, P.V. Narasimha Rao, to get him off the scam case.
Arrest, Conviction & Sentence
In November 1992, Harshad Mehta was arrested by the CBI and was charged with 72 criminal offences and more than 600 criminal actions taken by various financial institutions and banks. He hired the famous lawyer Ram Jethmalani and was granted bail after three months.
Again, in the year 1999, Harshad Mehta was convicted in another Maruti Udyog Scam by the Bombay High Court and was sentenced to 5 years of imprisonment.
When Mehta was serving his 5-year imprisonment, he complained of chest pain and was taken to the civil hospital, and on 31 December 2011, he died of a heart attack.
Films & Book Adaption
- The Scam: Who Won, Who Lost, Who Got Away (1993)
- The Scam: From Harshad Mehta to Ketan Parekh (2001)
- Scam 1992: The Harshad Mehta Story is a very popular web series, streaming on SonyLIV and is based on his life.
- The scandal was also depicted in various movies through characters such as Natwar Shah in Aankhein.
- The 2006 Indian Hindi-language crime drama film, Gafla, is also said to be inspired by the life of Harshad Mehta
- Another film, The Big Bull starring Abhishek Bachchan based on his life, is soon to be released.
- Harshad Mehta was a cricket enthusiast in his childhood.
- Harshad Mehta had 40 rupees in his pocket when he returned to Mumbai in 1973. He rose up from rags and built a fortune worth hundreds of crores.
- Even after getting banned from the stock market, in 1998, Harshad made a comeback as a “stock market guru,” by starting his own website, harshadmehta.com, to share his analysis of the stock market and tips for investment.
- Sucheta Dalal, the journalist who exposed Harshad Mehta Scam, was honoured with Padma Shree in Journalism in 2006.