Aug 25, 2006 at 04:21pm IST

Union minister cleared of don nexus

New Delhi: Government on Friday gave a clean chit to Minister of State for Home Manikrao Gavit in alleged conversation with a jailed criminal, saying his voice did not match with that of the person in a tape aired by a TV channel.

Home Minister Shivraj Patil told the Lok Sabha that the CBI had collected tapes from Zee TV which aired them and recorded statements of relevant persons.

The CBI also collected the voice sample of Gavit on the tape in the presence of independent witnesses and experts of Central Forensic Science Laboratory (CFSL), he said.

NOT GUILTY: A TV news channel had claimed that Manikrao Gavit spoke to a criminal in a UP jail.

"The voices on the tapes were examined on audio spectrography by experts who have opined that they do not tally and are not of the same person," Patil said.

He laid the report by the experts on table of the House.

Zee TV had on August 13 aired an audio tape claiming that it contained conversation between Gavit and a criminal in Bulandshahr jail in Uttar Pradesh.

After Patil's statement, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee said Gavit has been exonerated and asked him to return to Parliament. Gavit, who was sitting in the back row, then moved to frontbenches.

Patil said it was important to first establish whose voice it was.

An inquiry will now be carried out to ascertain who actually spoke, the Home Minister said.

He said it would be ascertained whether the person in jail was spoken to and if so, how could he have a telephone in jail.

It will take some time, Patil said.

Leader of the Opposition L K Advani said the matter was serious and noted the minister, who had nothing to do with it, had been maligned.

Pointing out that the channel, while airing the tape, had said it was a result of official surveillance, he wanted to know whether the probe went into this aspect.

Advani noted that Gavit had been insisting since beginning that he was innocent.

Patil said after the allegation, Gavit had asserted in both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha that he had not at any time spoken to any criminal in Bulandshahr jail and that the voice on the tape played by the channel was not his.

Gavit had maintained that what was shown or heard on the Zee TV was "baseless, false and fabricated" and that he did not know the person to whom it was alleged that he had spoken, he said.

Gavit had stated that he was willing to subject himself in any manner to any inquiry by anybody or by a committee of Parliament to ascertain the truth in the matter and that he would refrain from discharging his executive or legislative functions until report of the inquiry was given to the House and that he would not join his duties unless he was acquitted, the Home Minister said.

He had requested that the inquiry be conducted in an expeditious manner avoiding unnecessary delays, Patil said.