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May 06, 2013 at 05:42pm IST

UPA faces Oppn heat over coal scam probe, Railway Board bribery case

New Delhi: The troubles are mounting for the UPA as the Opposition turns up the heat on two of its ministers, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, demanding that they be sacked over the coal blocks allocation scam probe case and the Railway Board bribery case respectively.

Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj threatened that Parliament will be allowed to function until the two were removed. She accused the government of diverting attention from scams by passing bills. "Bills should not be passed when Parliament is not functioning properly. Parliament will only function when both the accused ministers (Ashwani Kumar, Pawan Kumar Bansal) resign. The resignation of ministers is a must. No bill should be passed in chaos, and we will not let any bill pass in chaos," she said.

On Monday, the CBI, in a nine-page affidavit, admitted to the Supreme Court that two changes were made to its probe report on coal allocations, once at the instance of the Law Minister and the other at the instance of the PMO and the Coal Ministry.

The CBI said that its draft report was seen by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, Joint Secretary in the PMO, Shatruhgan Singh and officials in the Coal Ministry.

The affidavit, however, added that both changes were minor and technical in nature. No names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and no suspect or accused was let off, it stated.

The report was also seen by Attorney General GE Vahanvati, who recommended changes, and the Additional Solicitor General, the affidavit said. A series of three meetings were held - between the CBI and government officials at Vahanvati's office, the Law Minister's office and at the CBI headquarters.

In its defence, the CBI stated that the agency's manual is silent on whether a status report can be shared or not.

Anti-corruption activist and Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said, "There were at least three different sets of meetings which took place between the CBI and various officials from the government to make changes in the report. One meeting was in the Law Minister's office. Another meeting was in the Attorney General's office and the third meeting was in the CBI headquarters. It shows that gross contempt of court has been committed."

Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was defensive. "I have not given any report. If the CBI has given any name regarding this then go and ask them. I won't comment anything regarding the CBI and the court."

Congress leader and I&B Minister Manish Tewari said, "In a matter that is subjudice, we believe in conveying through our law officers in court."

The Bharatiya Janata Party, however, flayed the government. BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad said, "The Attorney General was making factually incorrect statement. The Law Minister was lying. The Law Minister must be sacked." "Who authorises the PMO Joint Secretary to attend the meet? Who authorised the Joint Secretary to seek changes?" he asked.

Clamour grows for Pawan Bansal's resignation, SP backs Opposition's demand

As the Opposition stepped up pressure on Pawan Kumar Bansal seeking his resignation over the railway board bribery controversy, the Samajwadi Party (SP) also joined it in the demand saying the Railway Minister "cannot be protected for long".

"When non-Congress officials are caught, they are quickly investigated. But Congress ministers accused of corruption are protected. This is a serious matter and Pawan Bansal cannot be protected for long. He will have to be sacked," said SP leader Ram Gopal Yadav. The Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP), however, said it was too early to conclude that Bansal was involved in the matter. "The CBI is investigating the matter and it should not take long to conclude the probe. We should not conclude or ask the Railway Minister to resign just like that," said BSP chief Mayawati.

Meanwhile, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday reiterated that the government has lost the moral right to stay in power. "Pawan Bansal should have stepped down as soon as the details of his officials involvement came out," said BJP leader Murli Manohar Joshi. "The Railway Minister should resign on moral grounds," said CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury.

Parliament also remained paralysed on Monday with the Opposition demanding Bansal's and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's resignations. Coming out in support of beleaguered Railway Minister Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath rejected demands for his resignation saying it was a "bad tradition" to seek resignations over allegations.

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