Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal, in a tersely-written letter to his boss and Attorney General G E Vahanvati, accused him of messy handling of the CBI in the coal scam investigation, and sparked speculation that the latter may recuse himself from the case. Sheela Bhatt reports.
Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal may be resigning on Tuesday, but it seems like that he doesn’t want to fade into oblivion silently. He has sent a legal-political missile -- in the form of a letter -- exposing his boss Attorney General G E Vahanvati’s approach in handling of the Central Bureau of Investigation’s cases of paramount importance in fighting corruption in the government.
Rawal seems to be claiming that he was working hard to fight on behalf of the CBI, while his boss didn’t help him in his endeavour. Precisely due to the nature of Rawal’s allegations and the tone of the letter, it is very likely that Vahanvati will recuse himself from the coal scam case on Tuesday.
The unconfirmed report says that the tone of the letter describes how Rawal got a raw deal from his boss. Rawal’s supporters in the legal world complain that Vahanvati removed him unceremoniously from the cases where he was putting in his best efforts to take forward the CBI’s fight against corruption.
They quote the infamous case of mining baron and former Karnataka minister G Janardhan Reddy in the Obulapuram Mining Company illegal mining case which is being investigated by the CBI.
According to a source in the law ministry, Rawal has written the tell-all letter to Vanhanvati, blaming him for the messy handling of the coal-scam.
Rawal refused to speak to rediff.com, claiming that he never speaks to the press.
However, he denied the rumours that he has resigned.
But his rivals in the ministry say, “Rawal has no option but to resign because of the CBI’s affidavit saying the exact opposite of what he told the court.”
The CBI admitted in the Supreme Court that an official from the Prime minister’s Office, the law ministry and the coal ministry has vetted the status report of the investigation into the coal scam.
After getting embarrassed in the court, Rawal has now allegedly stated in the letter how that controversial meeting with Law minister Ashwani Kumar was called by Vahnavati himself by sending an SMS, where the government’s other representatives had vetted the CBI’s report. However, Rawal refused to confirm the details.
Hours before the judgment concerning the coal scam -- which would affect in some way or other Prime minister Manmohan Singh, will decide the fate of Law minister Ashwani Kumar and impact the credibility of Vahanvati and his junior Harin Rawal and affect Ranjit Sinha and his institution, the CBI -- the blame game has begun.
Rawal was quite upset because Vahnavati has brought in senior advocate Sidharth Luthra in his team. His idea was to divert some CBI briefs to Luthra from Rawal.
Many factors are at play behind the coal scam investigation.
It seems clear that Vahanvati and Rawal are getting ready to part on bitter terms.
Vahanvati and Ashwani Kumar don’t have the best of working relations and many in the CBI too are unhappy with the “pompous” law minister. The add-on factor in the case is the restless mining rights holders who are feeling the heat, as the investigation has begun, and they are on the CBI’s radar.
The forces that have made the issue “big” in the media have a ‘specific target’, says a source from one of the involved parties while speaking off-the-record to rediff.com.
“Someone has worked hard to save his own skin. The matter is being made so big that now all eyes are on the Supreme Court,” he said.
He added, “If Rawal has to go, then why not Vahanvati? The evidences have not yet surfaced but are expected to be revealed. Vahanvati too was reportedly present in the meeting where the changes were made in the CBI’s status report.”
The scam is all about controversial policy and dubious allocation of coal mines. The free allotment of mines was done so that the mining rights holders could make huge profits in the long run. When it was unearthed, senior advocate and crusader Prashant Bhushan and few other petitioners went to the courts.
The Comptroller and Auditor General had indicted the United Progressive Alliance government for huge losses to the exchequer in the scam.
The Supreme Court is slowly but firmly tackling the complicated matter of mining rights allotment which encouraged multi-billion rupee corruption.
A few of the coal mine owners have tremendous vested interest in delaying the CBI investigation against them. One of the industrialists, who has rights to coal mines in northern and central India and is likely to lose the control over the mines once the investigation picks up, is one of the major players behind the mess in the law ministry these days.
Rawal’s letter may throw light on this behind-the-scene maneuvering.
One of the lawyers of the petitioners of coal scam told rediff.com, “We really wish that two things should come out of this. One, let the dubious allotment get cancelled, and two, either the CBI should be asked to investigate without exerting any pressure or the Special Investigation Team should probe coal scam-related issues. Once that happens, not only will the lease of coal mines get cancelled and the ownership return to the people, but some of the dubious operators will be arrested soon.”
One is not sure if Rawal has turned whistle-blower or has just presented his own defence.