Law Minister, PMO made changes in coal scam report: CBI to SC
A CBI affidavit Monday admitted 'certain changes' were made at Law Minister Ashwani Kumar's instance in its status report on the allocation of coal blocks, leaving the Opposition demanding the government's resignation, while the Congress-led UPA retorted "don't lecture us".
The CBI admission rocked both houses of parliament, as an aggressive opposition attacked the United Progressive Alliance government demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Ashwani Kumar, as also that of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal, whose nephew has been arrested in taking a bribe of Rs.90 lakh.
In a nine-page affidavit, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) Director Ranjit Sinha said that "there was no deletion of any evidence against any suspect" and the "central theme of the status report" was "not changed".
Sinha said the CBI's tentative findings that the screening committee which scrutinised applications for the allocation of coal blocks had not prepared a broadsheet or chart for its evaluation was deleted at the instance of Ashwani Kumar from the draft report.
"The other tentative findings about non-preparation of broadsheets or charts by the screening committee, to the best of our recollection, was deleted by the union minister of law and justice (Ashwani Kumar)," Sinha said in the affidavit, filed in pursuance to the apex court's April 30 order.
It said at the instance of the minister a sentence was deleted about the scope of the inquiry with respect to the legality of the allocations.
Sinha said at the instance of the officials of the coal ministry and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO), its "tentative findings about the non-existence of a system regarding allocation of specific weightage/points was deleted..." from the draft status report based on its preliminary enquiry 2 (PE 2) concerning allocations made during 2006-09.
The affidavit said the changes were made in the final status report pertaining to its preliminary inquiry about the non-existence of approved guidelines for the allocation of coal blocks.
Pointing to the four changes made at the instance of Ashwani Kumar and officials of the PMO and the coal ministry, the affidavit said: "The central theme of the status report had not changed post-meetings. There was no deletion of any evidence against any suspect or accused, nor were any let off."
The BJP, which has not been letting parliament run for the past few weeks on the coal blocks and 2G spectrum issues, refused to lessen the pressure.
"This government has lost its right to rule the country, they should all resign and move towards elections," BJP spokesperson Shahnawaz Hussain said.
"The only issue to be discussed now is which ministry under government does not have a scam. Even the ministry under prime minister has been involved in corruption," he alleged.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath asked the BJP not to lecture the government.
"Did Nitin Gadkari resign as president of the BJP? The BJP should not give us lectures on such matters. Our government knows what is to be done and if there is any indictment, we will certainly take action," he said.
BJP leader Prakash Javadekar said the law minister should resign immediately, adding that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should take responsibility.
"If they have any shame at all, the law minister and prime minister (Manmohan Singh) should resign. For the sake of democracy and justice they should immediately resign. There is no doubt in it that they altered the report," he said.
The Congress, which has been defending Ashwani Kumar, said it would wait till May 8, when the apex court's observation on the issue is expected.
"We need to wait till May 8. Till then any comment would not be judicious," Congress spokesperson Renuka Chowdhury told reporters.
Kamal Nath echoed her views. "As far as the law minister is concerned, the Supreme court will be hearing the case day after tomorrow (Wednesday). They have already filed an affidavit," he said.
With both the ruling party and the main opposition sticking to their positions, the stage was set for a showdown in parliament on Tuesday as well before the government can take a call on Ashwani Kumar May 8.