The Central Bureau of Investigation said on Friday that the law minister had been given access to a draft copy of its report into the coal blocks allocation scam, prompting furious Opposition calls for his resignation and putting at risk the functioning of Parliament next week.
CBI director Ranjit Sinha submitted a highly unusual affidavit to the Supreme Court saying the agency had shared the draft with minister Ashwani Kumar and officials in the prime minister’s office and coal ministry — the ministry overseeing the allocations.
The affidavit, which had been demanded by the apex court after a petition alleged government interference in the report, did not say that any changes had been made to the draft.The CBI is probing alleged irregularities in coal block allocations that the state auditor has estimated benefited companies by a staggering Rs. 1.86 lakh crore because the blocks were given away at cheap rates instead of being auctioned.
“The government has been caught with its pants down,” said senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley, head of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha, as his colleague Ravi Shankar Prasad reiterated the party’s demand for Kumar’s exit.
Kumar denied any wrongdoing, and his party backed him, rejecting demands for his resignation outright.
“I have done no wrong. The truth will prevail,” the law minister said after an emergency meeting of UPA constituents chaired by Congress president Sonia Gandhi and attended by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
“There is no question of his (Kumar’s) resignation. He is not going to resign,” said parliamentary affairs minister Kamal Nath.
Government sources said that the UPA’s view was that the law ministry was the statutory legal advisor not just to the government, but to the CBI too, and the investigating agency had to route all its legal matters through it, therefore the allegation of interference was incorrect.
In this context, the CBI had only shown a draft report to the law minister and not the final version of the status report, which was submitted to the Supreme Court on March 8.
The government argument also has been that so far there has been no direction from the court that the law ministry should not be involved in this matter. Congress sources said the party will wait for its next steps until April 30 when the Supreme Court takes a view on the two-page affidavit.
The CBI's Sinha, on the sidelines of a function in Ghaziabad, was asked whether any changes were made in the status report on the suggestion of the law minister. He said: "I will disclose everything before the apex court and before telling them I do not wish to share anything with the general public."