Trust held camps, sought probe for forged signature: Khurshid

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 14, 2012 15:53 hrs

New Delhi: Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Sunday admitted the need for a probe into "forgery" of an Uttar Pradesh government official's signature on a letter recommending release of funds to his NGO, but denied allegations of embezzlement of funds.

At a crowded press conference at his residence in the capital Sunday, Khurshid produced documents and pictures to prove that camps were held to provide hearing aids and tricycles to the disabled in the state.

Khurshid denied any wrongdoing by the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust and said he would pursue legal action against a TV news channel which aired allegations of financial misappropiration in the running of the trust.

Khurshid said he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and "share his experiences".

The minister lost his cool during the press conference after arguments with correspondents of the TV news channel, but later regained his composure. At one point, he even stood up to end the interaction and said he will see the media group in the court.

Khurshid is president of the trust and his wife Louise is the project director.

Referrring to a "draft" Comptroller and Auditor General report (CAG) which pointed to irregularities in running of the trust, Khurshid said it had not been given documents but would factor them in in the future.

"Documents were given to the ministry. Why (they) did not get to CAG, don't know," he said.

Asked about the social justice and empowerment ministry writing to the trust, Khurshid said it had sought clarifications and not ordered an inquiry.

Khurshid said he and his wife have been pressing for an inquiry.

The minister agreed that there was a letter with the forged signature of an Uttar Pradesh government official. The letter seems to have led the ministry to sanction Rs.68 lakh to the trust in March 2011.

"It is true that there was a letter to the central government... that people have denied signature. That letter we wanted checked by the UP government," Khurshid said.

"We have been saying please inquire. Why questions are being asked?" he said.

Denying that Louise had met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to get more money for the trust, Khurshid said she went to get an inquiry ordered.

"Who has made the signatures. The probe is being done on the issue," he said.

Asked about allegations of activist Arvind Kejriwal, Khurshid said he did not have to answer them.

Louise said 34 camps were held in 17 districts of the state and produced utlilisation certificate for purchase of appliances for the disabled people.

The certificate, signed by a chartered accountant, said of over Rs.77 lakh spent on camps in 2009-2010, Rs.71.50 lakh was by way of assistance from the social justice and empowerment ministry and the rest by way of donations by private individuals and establishments.

Asked if there should be independent inquiry, Khurshid said he has no problems but the role of Aaj Tak, the TV Today group channel, which conducted a sting operation, should also figure in the probe.

The minister produced a beneficiary of the camp who contradicted his earlier remarks that he had not been given a hearing aid by the trust.

Indicating that he would abide by the directive of the central leadership concerning his resignation, Khurshid said, "I am a party worker first."

The minister said he has no option but file defamation case against Aaj Tak.

"I am not happy to do it. I did feel I have good relationship with the media...has come as a big question mark on my feelings," Khurshid said.

Louise Friday filed a civil defamation suit in the Delhi High Court against the TV Today Group seeking damages of Rs.100 crore, court sources said.

Khurshid Sunday said more cases were going to be filed in the next couple of days.

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