In fresh trouble for the government on its controversial March 25 internal note on the 2G spectrum scam, the law ministry has made it clear that those who had seen the note cannot claim the benefit of having glanced through it casually.
The ministry's opinion, sought by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC), contradicts the defence offered by the government that even if finance minister Pranab Mukherjee had seen the note, he did not approve it.The JPC had sought the opinion following the controversy over the internal note of the finance ministry, which had concluded that then finance minister P Chidambaram did not do enough to prevent the scam.
To a specific query by the JPC, in which it sought a clarification from the government's legal arm on the meaning of the word 'seen', the law ministry gave its opinion on October 21.
"As regards the information/clarification on this point, it may be stated that the word 'seen' means something more than mere sight of the document," the ministry stated.
The clause clearly contemplates the evidence of a person who, having seen and examined the document is in a position to give direct evidence of the contents," states the opinion cleared by top law ministry officials.
When the issue spiralled into a major political controversy in September, law minister Salman Khurshid had gone on record to say that the mere fact that Mukherjee had seen the note did not mean that he had approved it.
Khurshid had said that the note was prepared by a junior finance ministry official and "certain orphan inferences had been drawn".
Mukherjee had tried to put a lid on the controversy, saying the note was a result of inter-ministerial consultations and the inferences drawn did not reflect his views.
The law ministry's opinion could add to the government's woes as the internal communication of the finance ministry shows that the note was indeed put up for Mukherjee's approval.
"The note may now be put up to the finance minister for his approval so that it can be sent to the cabinet secretariat and the PMO," the department of economic affairs had written on March 23.