WHO LEAKED the R.S. Pathak Authority’s report on the oil-for-food scam to a private television news channel? Circumstantial evidence suggests CNN-IBN could have got wind of the report’s operative parts from sources other than those in the government or the PMO.
Consider the facts and make your own guess. The channel broke the news within half-an-hour of Justice Pathak’s 6 pm call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on August 3 to hand over a “single copy” of the report. And barely had the former CJI emerged from the 30-minute meeting, that CNN-IBN went public with his key findings — exonerating the Congress; indicting Natwar Singh and his son Jagat for misuse of position and identifying businessmen Andaleeb Sehgal and Aditya Khanna as recipients of Iraqi contracts.
Now, the time-gap between the submission of the report and the airing of its contents was too short for anyone in the government, leave alone the PM, to go through the 110-page document and organise the leak. The information apparently emanated from within the Authority’s set-up, including four advocates — two former solicitors general who worked as the panel’s senior lawyers and two others who worked in junior capacity.
For his part, CNN-IBN's editor-in-chief Rajdeep Sardesai confirmed he did not have access to the report but ran the story on the basis of information received from "a political source I had been tracking for six months". In fact, he delayed telecast of the story -- received earlier in the day -- to after Pathak's meeting with the PM.
The buzz in the legal circles is that the leak could have come from a probe authority lawyer married to a CNN-IBN journalist. Fingers are also being pointed at another probe panel counsel who served as additional solicitor general during the NDA rule.
Amid reports of a possible privilege notice against the PM by the opposition NDA, Parliamentary Affairs Minister P.R. Dasmunsi has promised to report the matter to the two Houses on investigation by an official agency. But Sardesai was unfazed: "I have done my journalistic duty. Nobody has approached me in connection with any probe."