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Coal-gate: The CBI-government nexus SHAMES the nation

Last updated on: April 27, 2013 12:27 IST

Coal-gate: The CBI-government nexus SHAMES the nation

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But it's nice to see the CBI telling the truth overtly and exposing the government that it serves covertly, says Sheela Bhatt.

"Vahanvati (Goolam Essaji Vahanvati, attorney general) was lying when earlier he told court that the government has not vetted the status report on the allocation of coal. Now, the Central Bureau of Investigation has told the court on record that the government has seen the draft report before the final report was drafted. It's proven beyond doubt that Vahanvati and his team were speaking a plain lie," petitioner and senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan tells Rediff.com.

The Congress-led government has taken shelter using smart words -- that the government has seen only "the draft of the status report" and not the "final version" of the investigation done by the premier probe agency.

In one of the most shameful legal-political scandals of independent India, the CBI chief Ranjit Sinha admitted before the Supreme Court on Friday that, "In respect of the query raised by this Hon'ble Court about sharing of the contents of the Status Report dated March 8, 2013 with the political executive, I submit that the draft of the same was shared with Hon'ble Union Minister for Law and Justice as desired by him prior to its submission before this Hon'ble Court."

Sinha also confessed, in writing, "Besides the political executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary-level officer each of Prime Minister's Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them."

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's government is caught with its hands in the till. The CBI's admission of facts is an admission of guilt. It's sensational and shameful.

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Image: Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar


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'Does govt think the world is foolish?'

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A senior lawyer of the Supreme Court, who has contested a number of CBI cases, tells Rediff.com, "A blatant lie has been spoken in the court room and the CBI itself has exposed the lie. Now there is no escape route left for CBI chief Sinha, Vahanvati and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar to save their honour."

"The government defender says that when the CBI chief says the final report is not shown to the government he is right, and when the government says that only draft report was shown to them by the CBI that's also correct. It's the case of glass half full and glass half empty. Both statements are correct," says Bhushan, debunking the logic with contempt.

"Does the government think the whole world is foolish? They think they can fool people all the time?" Bhushan asks.

He explains that the CBI was investigating against the government.

"It was a serious case involving millions of rupees. Since the last two years, the Supreme Court is supervising the coal scam case. The CBI was expected NOT to show the status report of their investigation to the accused -- that is the government in this case," he said.

 "When you allow the government to make the changes in the investigation report you are cheating the people, not just the court. It's not that the government can't advise the law officers or the CBI, but when the government itself is being investigated there is no way it can influence the investigators. One also knows that privately all governments do these things. But when it's caught with evidence it can't be taken lightly," he points out.

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Image: Supreme Court of India


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The buck stops at the door of PMO

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Sinha showed Ashwani Kumar and many others the draft report of what his team was likely to submit to the Supreme Court. Obviously it's a crime, it's unethical and heads must roll.

It is, in fact, an uncomplicated case of unethical act on the part of the PMO, law and coal ministers and their officers and equally importantly on the part of law officer Vahanvati, who is the legal voice of the government in the court room.

The coal-scam tainted United Progressive Alliance government has been caught red-handed trying to influence the investigating agency which was probing the coal ministry's mine allocation policy, which for a brief period was headed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh too.

In the controversy, the buck stops at the door of Prime Minister's Office. In the coal scam, fingers have been raised against the prime minister too because he was heading the coal ministry when the scam has been alleged to have taken shape.

Whatever the government's argument -- it doesn't jell because there is a clear case of conflict of interest. The government's defence -- that the "draft was seen and not the final report" -- is really weak.

Bhushan argues, "What is this foolish argument? Only when the draft is seen and changes are made, the final report is prepared. Where is the need to show the final report to the government when it's prepared according to changes suggested by the minister? Are we kids to believe such arguments that the CBI has not shown the final status report?"

"Ashwani Kumar has ridiculed people's intellect when he argued that he was correcting the English in the report," he said.

Bhushan refuses to reveal conclusive evidence of Kumar's involvement in protecting the PMO's role in coal allotments at this stage, but says, "Let the government speak, then we will speak."

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Image: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh


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The CBI-government nexus SHAMES the nation

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The CBI had no business to run to the government while investigating such a serious case which was under the direct eye of apex court.

Vahnavati should NOT have admitted before the court that CBI's report dated March 8 on the coal investigation was not seen by the government. If he was so virtuous, he should have admitted then only that this FINAL report was NOT shown to the government but may be the DRAFT report was shown.

If he had spoken complete truth, then he would have looked defensible.

Now his office stands exposed. The argument -- that final report was not shown (as CBI chief has said on oath on Friday) to the government and only "draft" of the final report was shown to the interested parties in the government -- should not be accepted at all till the CBI produces the "draft" report to the people.

Bharatiya Janata Party leader Arun Jaitley has demanded that the nation compare the final version and the draft about which the government suggested corrections and amendments.

The sequence of events is like this. On March 12, the Supreme Court was hearing the coal allotment case when the judge asked Vahanvati if the status report filed in a sealed cover has been vetted by any person in the government.

Harin Rawal, the additional attorney general who was assisting Vahanvati, turned to CBI's investigating officer Ravi Kant (who has since been shifted to the Intelligence Bureau) and asked him, "Is it shown? "

And the argument went on further till the judges changed the fate of the case when they ordered, "Let an affidavit be filed by the director of CBI that the status report submitted before this court dated March 8, 2013 was vetted by him and nothing contained therein has been shared with the political executive. He must also state in the affidavit that the same procedure will be followed in respect of subsequent status reports that may be filed before this court".

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How nice to see the CBI speaking the truth

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Since then, the government has been shaken up.

Let us not be naive to think that the CBI chief wanted to be candid. It's said that the copy of the draft report is circulating in a few hands where the law minister has made corrections in his hand-writing.

Also, Kumar was so brazen that when the illegal and unethical meeting of law ministry officers, coal ministry officers, law officers including Harin Rawal and CBI officers took place, he snubbed a CBI officer openly, saying that he doesn't know as much about law as much he (Kumar) knows.

Since the evidence is out in the open, there was no way but to share the truth on record.

Anna Hazare, Prashant Bushan and Arvind Kejriwal, who have been demanding a transparent Lokpal and want to curtail the corrupt and corroded CBI, should have the last laugh if the embarrassment to the government results in some concrete and positive outcome.

How nice to see the CBI speaking the truth overtly and exposing the government that it serves covertly.

To begin with, Sinha should resign and not ask for pardon just because he has been forced to speak the truth.

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Image: Prashant Bhushan


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