Now that the CBI Director has submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court,confirming The Indian Express expose about Union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar’s efforts to tinker with the probe agency’s status report in the coal block allocation scam,the onus is on the UPA government to answer some questions.
Time and again,case-after-case,this government has asserted that the CBI is an independent agency and that it is free to take whatever course it wants to adopt in investigations,without seeking the government’s consent or advice. However,as the CBI Director’s affidavit categorically proves,the truth is the reverse. The fact is that not only were the CBI Director and other officers summoned to the Law Ministry by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar for discussing the status report,which the agency was to submit in court,they even allowed the minister to go through the status report. Why then,one wonders,did the probe agency go through the charade of submitting the report in a sealed cover in the court?
Also,why did Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval,appearing for the matter,make an unequivocal statement in court saying the status report had not been shared with anybody from the political executive? That the political executive control the CBI and dictates terms to it is an open secret. But,what makes this case one-of-its-kind is that a senior law officer made an incorrect statement in court.
While the government and the Congress has,at least for the time being,decided to put its weight behind the Law Minister,serious questions will certainly be asked when hearing in the case resumes on April 30.
One question that could be posed to the CBI is who ordered it to share the draft of the status report with one joint secretary-level officer each of Prime Minister’s Office and Ministry of Coal as desired by them. Were the officers acting on their own or were they acting on orders from the seniors? Knowing how our bureaucracy functions,there is little doubt that these officers were reporting to their seniors about the contents of the report.
Also,if everything is so clean and nothing wrong,why doesn’t the government make public e-mails,if any,that were exchanged between the PMO functionaries and the CBI officers?
While it is too early to hazard a guess,there is no doubt that the Law Minister’s future as a politician will depend upon the view that the highest court of the land takes to it being misled and lied to. The government’s assertion that there was no wrongdoing by Kumar as only the draft report was shown to him and not the final report also carries little conviction.
And,at least on this occasion,the UPA Government won’t be able to accuse the opposition of disrupting the House on minor pretext. Trying to guide an ongoing investigation by an independent agency is not minor.