CHENNAI: Former union minister and Congress leader P. Chidambaram on Wednesday questioned the conduct of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj in facilitating the travel papers for former IPL chairman Lalit Modi and said that the facts disclosed so far point to nepotism, abuse of authority and flouting rules.
Chidambaram said Lalit Modi's passport was cancelled at the request of the Enforcement Directorate in 2011.
“ED had issued showcause notices and summons to Lalit Modi to appear, but he did not respond. ED briefed me that he was staying in the UK without a valid passport. ED requested me to take up the matter of Lalit Modi with my UK counterpart, George Osborne, which I did after consultations with the Cabinet,” Chidambaram said.
“Facts that have been disclosed so far point to nepotism, abuse of authority and flouting rules. The point is there was a look-out notice, more than one show cause notice and the passport was cancelled. How does this gentleman still remain in the UK?” he added.
The former finance minister also used the occasion to take potshots at Sushma Swaraj.
“The conduct of Sushma Swaraj in facilitating travel papers for Lalit Modi raises several questions. Why is the government, despite repeated demands, not releasing letters exchanged with the UK Chancellor of Exchequer? Why did the External Affairs Minister feel Lalit Modi, who is an Indian citizen, should have a UK travel document and not and Indian travel document?” asked Chidambaram.
“If the UPA is hounding him, why does Arun Jaitley confirm that in 15 of 16 cases, he has been given showcause notices? Is the NDA also hounding him?” he asked.
Chidambaram said if the assistance was made on ‘humanitarian’ grounds then Lalit Modi should have been asked to apply to the Indian High Commission for temporary travel documents.
“Why did the External Affairs Minister feel that an Indian citizen should get a UK travel document instead of an Indian document? If the humanitarian ground is a genuine ground, why does an Indian minister not tell an Indian citizen to apply to the Indian High Commission for temporary travel documents?” he said.
Demanding that the Centre should make the file noting public, Chidambaram asked as to who took the decision to issue a fresh passport to Lalit Modi and what steps has the government taken to enforce summons by the Enforcement Directorate.
“Is the NDA government incapable of protecting an Indian citizen who has been summoned by the Enforcement Directorate?” he asked.
Chidambaram rejected the charge that former prime minister Dr. Manmohan Singh was silent when the issue came up.
“Who took the decision not to file against the Delhi High Court order that restored passport to Lalit Modi? How was Lalit Modi staying in the UK when his passport was cancelled, why wasn't he sent back to India?
Chidambaram further said Lalit Modi's charge that he is a political victim is laughable.
Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had yesterday come out in support of Swaraj. He fully endorsed Sushma Swaraj’s position while maintaining that the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has issued showcause notices to Lalit Modi in 15 cases, the investigations of which are over.
Jaitley said that Swaraj acted bona fide. “The entire government and the party are one on the issue. There should be no doubt on this,” he added.
Swaraj, who has been facing criticism for helping the former IPL boss in procuring the travel documents from the UK, had on Sunday said she had taken a humanitarian view of Lalit Modi's case since his wife was suffering from cancer.
She further said that British MP Keith Vaz had spoken to her on the same, adding she believes that giving an Indian citizen 'emergency travel documents' cannot spoil relations between India and the UK.
Vaz had stated that he had checked with the Indian Government before taking any action and added that he had received a 'no objection' from New Delhi.