New Delhi: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday filed its affidavit on the coal block allocation scam report with the Supreme Court, in which the agency's director Ranjit Sinha has said the draft of the report was shared with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar "as desired by him", a charge that the Congress has been rejecting. The director has also said the draft of the report was even shared with a joint secretary in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and Coal Ministry officials.
Sinha's two-page affidavit filed on the direction of the apex court contradicts the claim made by CBI counsel on the last date of hearing that the coalgate scam report was not shared with any member of the government. The government had asserted it did not vet the the probe agency's status report.
"I submit that the draft (status report)of the same was shared with Law Minister as desired by him prior to its submission before the Supreme Court.... it was also shared with one joint secretary level officer each of Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them," the affidavit said.
The Law Minister held a meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh shortly after the CBI filed the affidavit and said he has "no comments whatsoever" on the development. The Congress core group and UPA allies also met to discuss CBI's coal scam affidavit on Friday. Sources said decision on Kumar will be taken on April 30 depending on Supreme Court's observation on affidavit.
The probe agency will now file another report which it has promised not to share with any political executive. However, advocate and the petitioner in the case Prashant Bhushan has questioned CBI's ability to conduct an independent inquiry into the case. "If CBI director has to take permission and advice of these officers to file an affidavit then what kind of independent inquiry do we expect in this case by CBI," questioned Bhushan.
"Affidavit is also silent on the changes sought by the Centre. Affidavit does not say who else was present at the meetings," the lawyer further said. The main Opposition the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has been demanding resignation of the Law Minister and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the wake of reports that he had summoned the CBI chief after which the report on the scam was "toned down". Congress had rejected the charge of interference and had ruled out resignation of Kumar.
The BJP reiterated its demand for Prime Minister's resignation and stressed on the need to reveal the original affidavit of the CBI. "The point is meeting was held at the direction of the Law Minister. CBI should reveal what was the original draft report. Attempts are being made to frustrate investigations. Nation is entitled to know what was the vetting done by the PM and the Law Minister. Attempts to influence the CBI are well known, but what has been the extent of damage of that influence. The buck stops with the PM. As the head of the government and as the minister incharge of the Coal Ministry when the scam took place," BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The opposition also raised questions over the meeting between Minister of State in PMO V Narayanasamy and the CBI director Ranjit Sinha and said the probe agency is being "politicised". But the Union Minister has said the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is making an "issue out of nothing".
But Narayanasamy has defended the meeting saying Sinha had invited him only for a function. "I attended the function in the evening, had dinner as well. I spent an hour there as well. BJP is making an issue out of nothing," said the Minister.
There were noisy scenes in Parliament on Thursday with the opposition gunning for Kumar and demanding that he take accountability and step down. The opposition has also been stepping up pressure on the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. Congress sources have said that contrary to reports, the Prime Minister had not asked for any intervention. On Friday, leader of opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley gave a breach of privilege notice in the House.
In March, the probe agency had said in its status report that many companies were given coal blocks through false representations and that there was no rationale for allocation of the blocks. The Supreme Court had ordered the CBI not to share the report with the government. It has also asked the Centre to explain why a small group of companies were favoured.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)