The UPA Government on Friday rejected the Opposition’s demand for the resignation of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, in the wake of CBI Director Ranjit Sinha filing an affidavit in the Supreme Court admitting the agency had shared the draft status report on coal scam with the government.
Minutes after Sinha came clean on the controversy, the Prime Minister went into a huddle with senior members of his Cabinet, including Ministers from the ally parties and the Congress top-brass.
Speculation was rife that Ashwani Kumar’s days as Law Minister were numbered, so when he was summoned by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to parliamentary office around mid-day the worst was expected.
Contrary to expectations, Kumar came out of the meeting to say that he has done “no wrong”. Instead of getting a sack order, it appeared he was given a breather. “I have done no wrong, the truth will prevail,” he breezily told the reporters waiting outside the meeting venue.
According to sources, Kumar “aggressively put forward his case” during his meeting with the PM. He reportedly said that it was part of his job as Law Minister to provide legal assistance to the CBI. Besides, there is no direct case against either the Law or the Coal Ministry; hence there was no bar on officials of the ministries giving their “inputs” to the probe agency. However, experts in the know of the procedural rules pointed out that the Law Ministry has no direct role to play in CBI affairs, except in helping the agency to engage the law officer of its choice for representing its cases in the court.
Even files pertaining to such matters should be rooted through the Ministry of Personnel or MoS in the PMO, V Narayansamy, who’s the government’s interface with the CBI on day-to-day procedural matters.
It appears, the PM refrained from taking any pre-emptive action against Kumar before the coalgate case again comes up for hearing on April 30. “If the court passes any stricture against the Law Minister, Ashwani’s (Kumar) position will automatically become untenable,” a top-level source said. The government is also hoping that the Supreme Court which goes into summer recess on May 15 may not take up the issue straightaway. In the meantime, Ashwani has full support of the PM. Also, his resignation would be seen as admission of guilt that would bring the PMO in direct line of fire.
It was no surprise that Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath rejected the Law Minister’s resignation demand. “The UPA chairperson and the PM have just had a meeting with UPA allies. The discussions centered around the non-functioning of Parliament and unacceptable demands of the Opposition parties,” Kamal Nath said.