New Delhi: Sources said on Saturday that the government might ask Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal to explain his role in the bribery case, in which his nephew Vijay Singla was arrested by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Friday.
Bansal, however, has claimed that he had no knowledge about the matter. "I had no knowledge or clue about the matter at all. He or any other relative of mine does not and cannot meddle in my official functions and influence my decisions," he said.
"I have always observed highest standards of probity in public life and look forward to an expeditious investigations by CBI in the matter," Bansal added.
In a sensational case of alleged bribery for fixing a top level position in the Railways, Vijay Singla was arrested by the CBI, which also held a Member of the Railway Board - Mahesh Kumar - earlier. Senior officials said Singla was arrested in Chandigarh for accepting Rs 90 lakh in cash from Manjunath, the conduit of Mahesh Kumar, recently promoted as Member (Staff) and trying to get a lucrative position as Member (Electrical). Kumar was arrested in Mumbai by a CBI team soon after he had flown in from New Delhi.
The CBI has registered a case under the Prevention of Corruption Act and the IPC against him. The other person arrested by the CBI was Sandip Goyal, who allegedly assisted in brokering the deal.
Two courier boys, who allegedly delivered the cash, were also arrested in Chandigarh. All accused arrested by the CBI in Chandigarh, Bangalore and Mumbai are likely to be produced before the Patiala court in Delhi on Saturday afternoon.
In an operation kept under wraps, the CBI kept a tab on Kumar's movements and phone calls and swooped down on Singla at the time of bribe payment. Both Singla and Manjunath were taken to the CBI office in the city where they were placed under arrest.
Kumar was General Manager (Western railways) and promoted recently as Member Railway Board, a post equivalent to Secretary in Government of India. Besides Kumar and Singla, the CBI has also slapped charges against Goyal and Manjunath under various sections of the Prevention of Corruption Act and IPC, the officials said.
Meanwhile, political parties have asked Bansal to explain his position in the case. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Ram Asrey Kushwaha said the Railway Minister must resign on moral grounds. "PM and Sonia need to realise that it is the Railway Minister's relative who has been arrested with Rs 90 lakh. We want them to remove the corrupt ministers in the government and Pawan Bansal must resign on moral grounds," said Kushwaha.
"It is very clear now that that both the Congress party and the UPA government are corrupt. The government has no right to stay in power anymore. Both the PM and Sonia Gandhi are answerable," said BJP spokesperson Muktar Abbas Naqvi.
Trinamool Congress leader and former railway minister Dinesh Trivedi said the "system is rotten as nothing can happen without bribery". "The whole system requires sanitisation. Sad day for Indian Railways," he added. He, however, said that the decision to resign over the controversy should be left to Bansal's conscience. Trivedi also sought Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's intervention.
(With additional information from PTI)