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Coalgate: Embarrassments Don't Stop For UPA

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The UPA government seems to be in for some more embarrassment over coalgate. The Indian Express newspaper reported on Saturday, 13 April that CBI may be inclined to inform the Supreme Court that the controversial probe status report it submitted last month had been vetted by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Prime Minister's Office officials.

The paper reported quoting sources that senior CBI officials, including director Ranjit Sinha, were summoned by Kumar days before the status report was filed. The meeting, also attended by law ministry officials saw several amendments in the status report some of which were incorporated by the CBI.

Amid reports of alleged interference in the CBI probe into the coal scam, BJP leader Arun Jaitley on Friday, 13 April, demanded constitution of a special investigation team (SIT), besides accusing the UPA of being a "rogue government" that will not allow CBI to function independently.

The Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha also charged the government with "interference in the administration of justice" by not allowing CBI to acquaint the apex court with the full truth.

"CBI cannot find out the truth and even if some honest officer in the CBI tries to find out the truth, the UPA is a rogue government which will not allow it to operate independently," Jaitley told reporters here.

His Lok Sabha counterpart, Sushma Swaraj, criticised the government for "vetting" of the CBI report and said it is part of "an attempt to save Prime Minister Manmohan Singh".

"This is a very serious matter. This is evidence of the government's pressure on the CBI to save the prime minister," Swaraj said on Twitter.

Jaitley said the UPA is interested in "diluting the guilt of the culprits" and does not want the truth to come out.

"When Ministers, civil servants and officials try that the Supreme Court should not be acquainted with the full truth. This is an interference in the administration of justice. The government owes and explanation," the BJP leader said, while demanding that the CBI's original unaltered report be made public besides being placed before the Supreme Court.

He said the scam shows that the allocation of coal blocks were a "tainted" one and "a case of nepotism", as the favourites of the government were allocated coal mines even when power plants in the country are starved of coal.

"These facts now conclusively show that CBI will not be honestly allowed to investigate this case and therefore, the system will have to seriously consider whether an SIT must take over the administration and investigation of the coal scam. The Coal scam should be handed over to a SIT instead for the truth to come," Jaitley said.

"This is now conclusive that the farce of being autonomous and independent which CBI has attempted to maintain is now completely demolished and dismantled," Jaitley said.

On the media report that the CBI probe status report had been "vetted" by the Law Minister and the Prime Minister's Office, he said, "That this should be done at the level of the Minister and the officials of the PMO itself raises serious questions."

"Now instead of restoring the natural asset back, this government wants to dilute its own guilt and that of the persons to whom it was allotted and those who are responsible, by interfering in a due process of law," the BJP leader said, adding that the PIL pending before the Supreme Court is a due process of law and is a part of the administration of justice.

Citing the Vineet Narain case in which the apex court had emphasised on the autonomy and independence of CBI, Jaitley said the Supreme Court categorically had said, quoting from an English legal principle, that no minister can interfere and tell CBI what to do and not to do.

"That is now completely violated," the Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha said.

(BW Online Bureau & Agencies)