Justice K Venkataswami on Saturday resigned as both the head of the Tehelka inquiry commission and chairman of the Authority on Advance Ruling on Customs and Excise, sources said.
The resignation came in the wake of the criticism by the Opposition in Parliament on Friday over his acceptance of a government job when he was probing the Tehelka expose into fictitious defence deals.
The sources said Justice Venkataswami, a retired Supreme Court judge, sent in his resignation to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In the letter Justice Venkataswami said that the government job was offered to him on the recommendation of the chief justice of India last year and that he had never sought the post.
But now that the allegation had been levelled against him it was difficult to work, he said.
Tarun Tejpal, the Editor-in-Chief of tehelka.com, complimented Justice Venkataswami for not buckling under pressure from the government and tendering his resignation instead of giving a tutored report.
"I am relieved that finally the Government of India's bluff has been called off. They wanted to derail the investigations into the allegations of corruption into the defence deals and Justice Venkataswami's resignation will help them in achieving that end," Tejpal told rediff.com
Aniruddha Bahal, investigation editor of tehelka.com, told rediff.com from Hong Kong that it was a sad development.
"The Government of India never wanted the truth to come out. Hence they must be relieved. During the past one-and-a-half years the government's attitude has never been above board. Here is a government that refused to examine tehelka.com witnesses, and now they are unwilling to lead their witnesses after Ram Jethmalani blasted their first witness S Shankar, income tax commissioner from Mumbai," he said.
Bharatiya Janata Party spokesman Arun Jaitley told a television network that it was unfortunate that someone like Justice Venkataswami's integrity had been made a target.
"The blame for this lies entirely with the Congress, which made irresponsible allegations against Justice Venkataswami. This is not the first time that a judge heading a particular panel has been assigned another job. I hope he reconsiders his decision," he said.
The Congress said Justice Venkatswami's decision was a vindication of its stand.
"I think we raised the issue correctly. The way the government tried to cover up the whole thing and put him into the trap... This is a bit unfortunate," Congress chief whip Priyaranjan Dasmunshi, who had raised the issue in Parliament, said.
He reiterated the demand of an inquiry by the Joint Parliamentary Committee in the expose.
"Now it is up to the Government to assure the nation of a proper and complete probe in the matter."
The Tehelka Scandal: The Full Coverage
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