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Stepping on too many coalmines

There could not have been a worse turn of events for a government already on the ropes. The SC’s indictment of the government conduct in the CBI’s probe into the coal scam now threatens to blacken the UPA’s image further.

india Updated: Apr 30, 2013 22:43 IST
Hindustan Times
coal scam,CBI,UPA

There could not have been a worse turn of events for a government already on the ropes. The Supreme Court’s damning indictment of the UPA government’s conduct in the CBI’s probe into the coal scam has raised many issues which will cause, and rightly so, acute embarrassment to it.

It now transpires that the law minister, officials from the coal ministry and even some from the PMO had sought and made changes in the report that the CBI had framed.

The court has raised a number of vexing questions. Did the law minister have the authority to ask for the report? What were the changes that were made in it?

And most importantly, why was there an attempt to cover these actions up? Any way one looks at it, the government has not covered itself in glory.

The court now rightly wants to know how many people were privy to the report on this sensitive and politically explosive issue. By May 6, the CBI will have to provide information about all the changes that have been made to the original report.

It is either extreme political naiveté or a reckless disregard for the consequences that led to the law minister and others to ask to not only see but allegedly make changes to a report which is supposed to be framed in a completely independent manner.

Given that it has been beset by one scam after another, the UPA government should have conducted itself with utmost probity and caution on this issue.

The law minister could not have been unaware of the impropriety of asking for a CBI report into a scam in which his own government is allegedly involved.

Yet, he went ahead with this, leading to the court now telling the CBI that it does not need to take instructions from its political masters.

Whether the law minister now goes or stays, the damage has been done. The public and Parliament have the right to know what exactly transpired and what are the possible effects of the changes that were made.

The court has been unequivocal in stating that this has shaken the very foundations of the system. And once again, the court has reiterated what has been a longstanding demand from many quarters — that of autonomy for the CBI.

At face value, the law minister’s actions suggest that the government has something to hide and that he was trying to contain the damage.

Thanks to this ineptitude, Parliament does not seem able to conduct any other business.

The UPA cannot be unaware that its second tenure has seen more Parliament time wasted than any other.

Yet, it is literally handing the Opposition issue after issue with which to put it on the mat. The government, it would seem, is its own worst enemy at the moment.

First Published: Apr 30, 2013 22:39 IST