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'Is it a crime for PM to meet an industrialist?'

October 19, 2013 16:01 IST

'Is it a crime for PM to meet an industrialist?'

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Rejecting Opposition's demand for the booking of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in the coal scam following filing of charges against former coal secretary PC Parakh, Union Minister Manish Tewari said "there is a difference between an administrative head and the political head of the ministry".

Maintaining that it was unfair to hold the Prime Minister responsible for the administrative decisions taken by the government at the bureaucratic level, Tewari pointed out that Dr Singh had been holding the coal portfolio only in the interim after Shibu Soren's resignation as the then Coal Minister.

"By the time a file comes to the PM it has been processed by the coal bureaucracy and the bureaucracy within PMO. To expect the PM to scrutinise every file and then sign on it and then that being used by (Parakh) to say the PM is equally complicit, I think it's a bit of a stretch," Tewari, the Minister for Information and Broadcasting, told Karan Thapar on CNN-IBN programme Devil's Advocate.

Tewari was responding to a question related to remarks by Parakh that if industrialist Kumar Mangalam Birla and himself were guilty of conspiracy, then surely former Minister of State for Coal Dasari Narayan Rao and the PM must be part of that conspiracy since the allocation could not have happened without the signatures of the two ministers.

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Defending the Prime Minister, Tewari said that while ministers dealt with the substantive issues of policy, administrative matters were handled by the secretaries, who were the administrative heads of the ministry.

"There is nobody trying to escape responsibility... I am trying to make the distinction that by the time a file comes to the PM, who is the interim head of a particular ministry, it's gone through the entire coal bureaucracy," he said.

The Union Minister at the same time made it clear that merely naming somebody in an FIR and even charge-sheeting one did not make a person guilty.

"Neither an FIR or charge sheet is conclusive proof of guilt," he said.

Tewari said he did not approve of the criticism being directed at CBI over the registration of the FIR in the case.

It is "unfair to smear CBI or treat it as a whipping boy... If they have wrongfully registered an FIR, they will be deprecated by the court," he said.

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Image: Manish Tewari

Tags: FIR , CBI , Tewari

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Refusing to comment on why Parakh, who was being considered a whistleblower, was ultimately booked in the case, Tewari said, "The matter is being monitored by Supreme Court. It is sub-judice."

He also rejected the contention that it reflected negligence and irresponsibility on part of the Prime Minister if he had signed the files without exercising judgement.

"It is neither negligence nor irresponsibility. After all, why do you have a bureaucracy, different layers... To presume that since the Prime Minister has signed, he is also complicit, I disagree... no jurisprudence substantiates this kind of argument," Tewari said in response to repeated queries on as to how Dr Singh could claim to have no responsibility in the allocation for which Parakh and Birla have been booked.

When it was pointed out that Birla had first met the Prime Minister and then Parakh --following which a decision was taken to make the allocation to his company a bid by which had been earlier rejected -- Tewari shot back, "Is it a crime for the Prime Minister to be meeting an industrialist?"




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