Coal Gate: Law Minister Kumar says he has nothing to say

Last Updated: Tue, Apr 30, 2013 08:27 hrs

New Delhi: Union Law and Justice Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is at the centre of a government-opposition face-off over the alleged vetting of a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) draft report on coal block allocations, on Tuesday said that he had nothing to say on a matter that was sub-judice, and added that he was going to Parliament to attend proceedings there.

Kumar's brief statement as he was leaving his ministry, came as media reports revealed that the Core Group of the Congress Party will be meeting in the national capital shortly to review the outcome of the Supreme Court's scathing statement that the government should restore the independence of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) immediately on all probes conducted by it, including the one related to the coal block allocation controversy.

Congress President Sonia Gandhi is expected to preside over the meeting of the Core Group. Earlier, gandhi's political secretary Ahmed Patel is said to have had a meeting with the Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, in Parliament on the issue.

Meanwhile, the top brass of the CBI is having an emergency meeting at its headquarters here to review the impact of the apex court's latest order and strictures. The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has refused to comment on the court's observations.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the government to restore the independent position of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) with regard to its probe of coal block allocations.

It said that the government has shaken the entire process of investigation by asking the CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to show the draft report to the Union Minister for Law and Justice Ashwani Kumar for alleged vetting before its submission to the apex court.

"Why was the apex court kept in dark about the sharing of probe report with the government," a bench of the Supreme Court asked the CBI counsel.

The apex court bench further said that:"This suppression by the CBI is not ordinary."

It said that Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) should not be influenced by its masters and its independent position must be restored.

"Our first exercise will be to liberate the CBI from political interference. You don't need to take instructions from political masters," the apex court said.

In an embarrassing admission, CBI Director Ranjit Sinha had last week filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court in which he said that its probe report on coal allocation scam was shared with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and joint-secretary level officials of Prime Minister's Office (PMO) and the Union Coal Ministry.

Although governments have rarely been comfortable with judiciary taking charge of a politically significant investigation, the UPA leadership on Monday seemed resigned to having to swallow the not-so-sweet pill in order to get out of the tricky situation it was pushed into on Friday when the CBI confirmed to the court that it was made to share the contents of the report.

The apex court asked the CBI to file a fresh affidavit on the matter. 

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