Despite facing strictures from the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was holding out through the day on Tuesday against the demand to sack his Law Minister Ashwani Kumar. He would “study the observations” before taking “necessary action”, he said in a characteristically dour response to an extraordinary crisis.
The court had directed the CBI, not without sarcasm, to go through its manual and file another affidavit on May 8 stating whether the Law Minister was entitled to draft a status report. It was obviously referring to the line of defense the Law Minister had taken before the media while asserting that he had done no wrong. This seems to be the government’s line of argument too - “the Law Minister is well within his rights to peruse the status report of the coalgate probe.” It became quite apparent from CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s response to the court’s observations. Congress spokesperson Renuka Choudhury too said the same. “Let us accept it. As things stand, the CBI comes under the government. The government’s papers/files/responses on the probe have to be routed through the Law Minister. We cannot have a situation where the executive has to be subservient to affidavits of police officers and CBI officers walk into ministers’ offices picking up files,” she said.
No sooner had the court made its observations, the Congress president’s political secretary Ahmed Patel met the Law Minister and the latter had a 20-minute audience with the Prime Minister. The Congress core group, just the PM, Sonia Gandhi and Ahmed Patel, met soon afterwards. Ashwani Kumar, it appears, will stick it out till the court makes it impossible for him to do so.