Digvijaya Singh's provocative comments are the first political steps taken by the Congress to handle the coal scam and its fall-out, says Sheela Bhatt
Whenever Digvijaya Singh makes wild comments, senior leaders of Congress tell journalists and critics not to take him seriously. They claim that Singh is only speaking for himself.
The Congress insists that neither is he the voice of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government, neither is it the proxy talk of 10, Janpath. Unfortunately, there are some gullible people and some conniving people in New Delhi who accept this official response.
But this time, in the context of the comments made by Singh about the Supreme Court’s observations on the coal scam case, one should not be naive enough to believe that he is airing his own thoughts.
In an interview given to news channel Aaj Tak, Singh has openly challenged the Supreme Court and its recent order about irregular coal allocation and the Central Bureau of Investigation’s probe.
The interview given to journalist Rahul Kanwal is the first political step taken by the Congress to handle the coal scam, after securing the resignation of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar.
During the interview, Singh said, “If the Supreme court feels (Ashwani Kumar did something wrong) then why has it not given a judicial pronouncement? Why is it not giving an order asking for his prosecution? Can the Supreme Court save itself by merely giving its observations?”
He goes on to challenge the apex court in a harsh tone, bluntly stating, “Give a judicial order (saying) that such and such person has done something wrong and he should be jailed and also quote the law under which he should be locked up.”
This is a planned provocative act to create tension between the executive and the judiciary. This is a trial step and the government will take the next step when the situation is ready for it to retain control over the Central Bureau of Investigation.
No political authority and no political entity can go any further in challenging the Supreme Court. In this particular case, Singh is the voice of the UPA government, his party and his leaders. Those who believe otherwise will realise their mistake soon when the Congress’s gameplan unfolds.
The Congress is infamous for challenging the judiciary and doing everything it can to retain its turf in the balance of power between the executive and the judiciary.
The controversy erupted when the CBI showed the status report of the investigation to Ashwani Kumar and officials from the Prime Minister’s Office and the coal ministry. The agency admitted doing so in the court under oath.
The court observed that what the CBI had done was not as per the rules laid down in an earlier case. The court’s order said, “The director of the CBI and the investigating team ought to have acted as per the law laid down in the Vineet Narain case.”
The Supreme Court, in its attempt to grant autonomy to the CBI, further stated, “In the backdrop of the above, we wanted to know from Goolam E Vahanvati, learned Attorney General, whether the central government intended to put in place appropriate law for the independence of the CBI and its functional autonomy and insulate it from extraneous influence(s) of any kind so that CBI is viewed as a non-partisan investigating agency.”
The court has sought action from the government to make the CBI independent and it has ordered Vahnavati to file a response by July 5. There is hardly any time left for the government to follow the apex court’s order.
Will the government do something to make the CBI independent and gift it ‘functional autonomy’?
So how will it respond to the court?
Politically, as Singh has already started doing.
Prashant Bhushan, petitioner and lawyer in the coal allocation case, told rediff.com, “This government will do nothing to make the CBI independent. It will do some drama.”
On July 10, the Supreme Court will again take up the case, in which the needle of suspicion has also been pointed at Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He was in charge of the coal ministry when 142 coal blocks were allocated without an auction.
“The Congress will start following double standards as it always does. On one hand, they will say, ‘if we have done something wrong, go to the court and get an order against our minister’. On the other hand, when the court tells them to follow rules and make the CBI autonomous, then they will cry foul, saying, ‘Asking the executive to make a law is not within the ambit of the judiciary. The SC can’t force the issue’," said Bhushan.
He added, "The Congress knows that a court order against any minister or (Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law) Robert Vadra, on charges of corruption, is not easy to get. It takes 20 years or so. So they will, as Digvijaya Singh is doing now, keep claiming that they have not been dishonest. Singh is reading the order totally incorrectly."
The timing of Singh’s interview is no less important.
The prime minister is losing ground beneath his feet every day. He is ageing and not enjoying the best of health.
He has to retrieve his credibility in the coal allocation case.
Also, at this juncture, while it is on a weak footing, Dr Singh’s government can’t give away the control of the CBI and oblige the Supreme Court. Such a step is out of the question.
Digvijaya’s acid-throwing act on the face of the Supreme Court has to be interpreted in conjunction with the wobbly position of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.