Justifying changes incorporated in the draft status report on coal scam given to the apex court, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha’s affidavit stated that since “these changes (suggested) pertained to the tentative findings of the CBI, which would be arrived at with further clarity on more enquiries”, they were founded to be “acceptable” to the agency.
In an episodic recounting of how the status report was “vetted” at various levels of the government - or the “political executive” -- the CBI chief put on record the names of PMO Joint Secretary Shatrughna Singh and Ministry of Coal Joint Secretary A K Bhalla. The duo, he narrated, met CBI officer O P Galhotra at the latter’s office with regard to the ongoing enquiry.
However, the CBI stated that the “central theme” of the status report has not been changed, a statement which is in line with the government’s stand that its minister and officials made only “minor changes” to the report they vetted.
Citing this particular point of the CBI affidavit, Ashwani Kumar conveyed to the Prime Minister, other senior Cabinet colleagues and the Congress that he was “confident” that he would emerge unscathed when the Supreme Court took up the matter on May 8, sources said.
Interestingly, the affidavit stated (Para 6/Pg 4) that though A-G Vahanvati and the then ASG Harin P Raval (who has resigned) were present at the March 6 meeting in the Law Minister’s chamber at 12.30 pm, “neither of them had copies of draft status reports and no amendments were suggested by them”.
Corroborating the point, which Kumar had made during a closed-door meeting with the Congress leaders (earlier reported by Express), the affidavit said the decision taken at the March 6 meeting was that the report “would be placed in a sealed cover” before the court. It, however, noted that since the A-G had to leave the meeting earlier, the Law Minister suggested that the status report “may be shown to the A-G later”.
When two CBI officials (Galhotra and Ravikant) later in the day - on March 6 - met (Para 7/pg 4) Vahanvati, he “made certain observations” and “suggested minor changes”. However, the “A-G neither asked for nor was given a copy of the final status reports that were submitted before the Hon’ble Court”.
The affidavit also said there was no intention to suppress from the Supreme Court the fact that the draft
report was shared with the political executive and government officials. “Since it was our honest and bonafide belief that there was no specific direction on this issue by this court, it did not occur to us that the fact ought to be brought to the notice of this court.” But the Opposition has been demanding the resignation of Kumar as well as the Prime Minister, accusing them of interfering with what was meant to be an independent court-monitored probe.
The government has so far backed the Law Minister. External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said: “Why can’t the Law Minister consult investigative agencies to whom he provided service of law officers? The government may have been under the scanner, but we have a right to find out what is happening.”