Setting aside the “propriety” debate and the blame game over the CBI’s coalgate probe report vetting, Solicitor General Mohan Parasaran on Thursday put a few bland facts on the table - it is not the first time that the Law Minister had met the CBI Director; it happened in the UPA-I and it happened during NDA rule too, he quipped.
“If the CBI or the Law Minister had to do something clandestine, they could have done it in the darkest hour. Why do it in daylight by fixing official appointments?” Parasaran said, even as he sought to put a distance between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s action. According to the SG, the Prime Minister was neither aware of the meetings between the CBI Director and the Law Minister, nor was he aware of the role played by the joint secretary from the PMO. The PMO, he went on to add, was not aware as to how much of the report was shared with the Law Minister.
To keep himself also in the clear, Parasaran also quickly added that he had not seen the final report and so he could not comment on the nature of changes the Law Minister could have made in the CBI’s draft status report meant for the Supreme Court.
Since the SG’s remarks came after he and Attorney General G E Vahanvati had a late night meeting with the PM on Wednesday, it is being seen an “authorised commentary”- an “indication of Prime Minister wanting to distance himself from his Law Minister”. The latter is said to be surviving with the PM’s backing alone. Ashwani Kumar’s survival is also dependent on what happens at the next Supreme Court hearing on the matter on May 8. However, Congress spokesperson Sandip Dikshit on Thursday gustily defended the Law Minister calling him “a man of integrity” .
Interestingly, just as the PM began to distance himself from the Law Minister at the meeting with the two top law officers of the government, Ashwani Kumar cosied up to the Congress. This happened at a special briefing he gave to his party colleagues at the Congress Gurudwara Rakabganj Road office - known as the party’s war room. Both meetings happened on Wednesday night.
Apparently, the Law Minister told the Congress gathering that it was the Attorney General who had organised the controversial March 5 meeting as there was a difference of opinion between the AG and Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval about the format of the report - “whether it should be given in a sealed cover or in form of an open affidavit”. While Vahanvati favoured a status report in a sealed cover, Raval said an affidavit was a safer format, Kumar told them.
Kumar also claimed before his party colleagues that he never called the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to the meeting, the AG did and that he had only made “minor changes” and nothing more -“no name was deleted”!