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Coal scam: 'Law Minister was in touch with CBI chief till April 28'


Bhupendra Chaubey,CNN-IBN
May 01, 2013 at 01:39pm IST

New Delhi: More allegations have surfaced against Law Minister Ashwani Kumar a day after the Supreme Court slammed the government for political interference in CBI investigations into the coal scam. CNN-IBN has learned that Ashwani Kumar was in touch with CBI director Ranjit Sinha till Sunday, April 28.

Sources say the Law Minister was unhappy with the choice of UU Lalit as CBI counsel and reportedly wanted PP Rao to argue on behalf of CBI in the Supreme Court instead.

ALSO SEE Clamour grows for Law Minister's resignation, UPA buys time

This comes amidst growing clamour for the Law Minister's resignation afer the Supreme Court's observations on the CBI investigations. On Tuesday, the Opposition launched an all out attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh asking for his resignation along with the Law Minister's. "This is a serious matter. This all the more reinforces our demand that the Prime Minister should own up the responsibility and resign," BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad said, adding that the Law Minister too should step down. The BJP leader alleged that the government's law officials did not tell the truth to the highest court about the CBI report.

But the government managers have been buying time. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said the accountability will be fixed only after the Supreme Court gives its final ruling. "There's no question of sweeping anything under the carpet once the final order comes," Khurshid said.

While the Opposition is not too impressed with that argument, the legal fraternity also said the Law Minister should not have asked for the coal scam status report. "I believe that the Law Minister should resign even if there were no changes. Even if he had merely wanted to see the status report without even making any changes in it. It is like an acccused asking the police to show him the case diary of investigations, so that the accused comes to know what's the investigation against the accused," senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan said. "Simply speaking, I agree with Prashant that it should not have been shown at all," former Attorney General Soli Sorabjee said.

Meanwhile, former IPS officer Kiran Bedi has said that the CBI has itself chosen not to be independent. "The CBI chiefs have chosen not be to be independent. They could have been independent, the Supreme Court has given such a great opportunity for director of CBI to act independently. But they have chosen not be to be independent because this is their mindset. They are answerable to the law," Bedi said.

Earlier on Tuesday, terming it a "massive breach of trust" and a matter that has "shaken its foundation", the Supreme Court of India on Tuesday took a very serious note of the CBI affidavit on the coal block allocation scam and asserted that the probe agency must be "liberated" and should not be controlled by "political masters". The apex court also slammed the probe agency for having kept the court in the dark on the issue.

The Supreme Court bench said "suppression" of the fact that CBI has shared its probe report with the government is "not ordinary". A bench headed by Justice RM Lodha observed that there was a "very disturbing feature" in the affidavit filed on April 26 by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha and the agency must be restored to its independent position.

The Supreme Court also posed before CBI some questions related to the investigation. They are:

1. Why was it not disclosed that the March 8 report was shared with the government?

2. Why on March 12 a very emphatic assertion was made by the CBI Counsel that this report was not shared?

3. Besides the Law Minister and two Joint Secretaries, was the report shared with anybody else?

4. Were any changes made in the CBI status report?

5. At whose instance were the changes made and what is the effect of changes?

6. Is the Law Minister entitled to call for such a report?

7. Does it not show erosion of the trust that the court has shown in CBI?

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