Thursday, May 2, 2013

UPA coal tune: \'Who does dirty acts by fixing official appointments?

May 3, 2013, New Delhi-

The coal allocation scam is turning murkier by the day, with players posturing and passing the buck on each other, after the Supreme Court's tough remarks against the CBI as well as the government for "breaching the trust". Union law minister Ashwani Kumar, who has been left high and dry by the Congress, stoutly denied having ever convened any meeting with the CBI chief.

The minister, who was summoned to the party's war room, gave a detailed account of the meeting with the CBI chief, saying that it was arranged by attorney general GE Vahanavati to sort out a difference of opinion with his deputy, additional solicitor general Harin Raval, over filing of affidavit or a status report in the Supreme Court.

"It has been a convention for the law minister to intervene and preside over a meeting in case of difference of opinion between the top legal officers," he told senior Congress leaders. He was, however, at pains to tell them that they must defend him.

Kumar seemed confident that he will be vindicated on May 6, when the CBI files its affidavit in the Supreme Court. In a clear attempt to pass the buck, Kumar said the meeting, which was held in his office, had been called by the attorney general and not him. Admitting that the CBI director and his deputy attended the meeting, Kumar insisted that the attorney general had perhaps called them to the meeting since the matter pertained to the CBI affidavit.

"While it was decided to file a report in a sealed envelope to the apex court, the CBI director showed me the report, which I just glossed through and suggested a few changes, more so spelling or grammatical," he told the Congress leaders who are still unsure of defending him and believed it was "untenable" for him to remain in office. So far, only the prime minister has been backing Kumar.

A minister who was present in the meeting pointed out that the controversy was denting the government's image. One of the leaders said that even if minor changes were made to the draft report, an impression is created that the agency had doctored the report on the government's instructions.

They wondered why the law minister was not clarifying his position before the media. Kumar replied by saying that he would go public on May 6, after the CBI files report in the apex court. "If I go public at this stage, I would accused of pressuring the CBI," he said. The leaders even suggested to him to make public the minor changes he made to the draft to save embarrassment to the government.

Sources in the government also say that following the critical remarks by the apex court, the PM is understood to have discussed with the government's top law officers the interpretation of the remarks.

Singh is believed to have discussed the issue with attorney general G E Vahanvati and solicitor general Mohan Parasaran to assess the implications of the observations

Parasaran defended saying that it is not first time that a law minister had met a CBI chief.

"It happened in UPA-I and during the NDA rule too. We will have to restore public confidence in us which has eroded," he said and added: "If the CBI or the law minister had to do something clandestine, they could have done it in the darkest hour. Why do it in daylight by fixing official appointments?"
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