Having made a mistake,UPA errs again by waiting to see what it can get away with
The Supreme Court severely censured the CBI on Tuesday for having shared its status report on coal block allocation with the political executive,disregarding the courts specific instruction not to do so. Meanwhile,Assistant Solicitor General Harin Raval accused Attorney General Goolam E. Vahanvati of lying to the court about the matter,and compelling Raval to follow his lead Raval has since resigned. The court has now directed the CBI to provide a candid and truthful affidavit by May 6,explaining why the report was shared,why it claimed to the contrary,and who asked for what changes in the report; the first step forward,it has said,would be to free the CBI of political interference. By all accounts,the UPA is weighing the Supreme Courts observations,to assess the extent to which it is directly indicted,and what it can get away with. This is another error of judgement.
By hedging until the court lays out the options,the government has pushed itself even more firmly in the dock. Instead,it could have accepted the mistake and moved towards fixing it. Now it would be deeply misguided again to read the Supreme Courts statements as addressed to the CBI alone,and pretend that it is not implicated. The CBI certainly has much to answer for. It deserves the courts reprimand for not having stood up to the law minister despite the courts full backing in this instance. But what the Supreme Court left unsaid,and yet made amply clear,was the fact that the Centre uses the CBI like a crude tool,refusing to acknowledge or encourage the agencys independence. It takes two to free the CBI of political interference the CBI and its puppeteers. It takes one,the government of the day,to commit to institutional decorum and fairness.
The UPA has already waited too long. It must immediately ask the law minister to resign and investigate the actions of the law officers and the civil servants who read the report. If the UPA does not take corrective action,identify the motives for wrongdoing and punish those who crossed the line,it appears collectively guilty,and worse,brazen about it. For its self-interest,if not for the larger and loftier principle of liberating the CBI from political manipulation,it must act now,instead of waiting for the court to prod and push it further.