New Delhi: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar on Wednesday denied that he had seen the CBI's status report on coalgate. At a Congress party briefing, Kumar is learnt to have told spokespersons and senior leaders, including those who represent the party in television debates that he has done "no wrong" and hence there should be no shyness in countering opposition charges.
The briefing was attended by Union Ministers Jairam Ramesh, Pawan Kumar Bansal, Jayanthi Natarajan, Rajiv Shukla, Manish Tewari, and party leaders Janardan Dwivedi, Mohan Prakash, Raj Babbar, Girija Vyas and party spokespersons Sandip Dikshit, Rashid Alvi and Renuka Chowdhary.
In the meeting, Kumar is learnt to have told the party leaders that there was no wrong in his meeting the CBI Director as it was well under his jurisdiction and that the Law Minister is the counsellor of CBI. Some of those present, however, pointed out that since perceptions matter in politics, the controversy is creating trouble and it is indeed getting difficult to put up a defence.
One of the leaders said that even if minor changes were made in the draft report of the CBI, this will give an impression in the public that the agency prepared the report as per the government's instructions.
The sources said that the Law Minister, however, said that he had not called the CBI Director in the meeting and did not know that he brought the status report. He is also learnt to have told them that the meeting was called by Attorney General GE Vahanavati in his chamber and that he was only trying to solve the dispute between the Attorney General and Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval.
There was also a view that the Law Minister should clarify the matter in public. A Union Minister opposed it but wondered that since proceedings in both the Houses are stalled, how will Kumar clarify his position. There was a general view after the meeting that the Minister should lay his statement on the floor of the House.
The Law Minister was called to brief the media faces of the party at 15 Gurudwara Rakabganj Road, also known as Congres War Room, where election strategies of the party are formalised. Kumar also told the partymen that contrary to perceptions and statements made by others, investigation in this particular case is not being monitored by the Supreme Court so far, the sources said.
The minister is learnt to have impressed upon the fact that neither it is a court-monitored investigation nor the apex court has given any direction to the government into the matter so far which has been violated. "We have not done anything wrong. We should clarify the situation," Kumar was quoted as saying to the partymen at the closed-door briefing.
Some of the leaders, however, said that if "we were not wrong, we should have clarified these things earlier" as delay in doing so leads to perception that something wrong has happened. One of the leaders also said that if the earlier draft in which even minor changes were brought at the behest of the government comes in public domain, it will lead to embarrassment.
An unfazed Law Minister, however, said it will be better if that draft also comes out as no substantial changes have been made, the sources said. A number of questions were raised to the minister with many leaders wondering whether the Law Minister should clarify the matter himself. Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari is learnt to have said that Kumar should not give statement outside Parliament. He also wondered how can Kumar clarify his position when both Houses in Parliament are facing repeated disruptions, the sources said.
Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh is also learnt to have favoured a clarification by the Law Minister saying unless the matter is clarified by him first, how will other leaders be able to defend him.
With additional information from PTI