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Clamour for Chidambaram's ouster over 'misuse' of power

Thursday December 15, 2011 08:05:46 PM, IANS

New Delhi: Already under the scanner for alleged complicity in the 2G scam, Home Minister P. Chidambaram found himself in more trouble Thursday with the opposition pressing for his ouster following a report that he allegedly abused his power while quashing a forgery case against a former client.

Even as the government backed Chidambaram saying the ministry had acted as per the law in this case, Delhi Lt Governor Tejendra Khanna, according to sources, revoked the home ministry decision of withdrawal of prosecution in the controversial case relating to a Delhi-based hotelier.

This after both houses of parliament plunged into chaos and were adjourned for the day following a report in a national daily alleging that the home minister had helped the hotelier who was his client when he was a practicing lawyer.

Chidambaram was not in either house when the opposition raised the issue.

BJP members showed copies of the English daily that had published the report on Chidambaram's alleged interest in the legal dispute involving the Delhi-based hotel and its owners.

The report alleged that the home ministry had earlier this year, with the approval of Chidambaram, directed the withdrawal of three FIRs against his client S.P. Gupta, accused of cheating and forgery.

"The conflict of interest relates to a politically sensitive case in which Chidambaram's client S.P. Gupta, a hotelier, was also accused... The main case against Gupta was defrauding to the tune of several crores of rupees," according to The Pioneer newspaper.

BJP's Chandan Mitra, editor of the daily, raised the issue in the Rajya Sabha alleging that the home minister had misused his power.

"Chidambaram misused his powers. He instructed the Delhi government and Delhi Police to withdraw charges. We think it is a big case of conflict of interest. Chidambambaram has no moral authority to remain the home minister, he should resign," Mitra said.

The home ministry, according to the report, had consulted the law ministry for a legal opinion -- that the power vested in the government could be exercised in such cases in the interest of proper administration of justice.

The case dates back to 1999 when owners of the luxury Metropolitan Hotel, Gupta and his company Sunair Hotels were involved in a legal battle with private firm VLS Finance Ltd that claims to have funded the hotel project.

Chidambaram, who was an opposition MP represented Sunair Hotels in the case, according to the report.

But the home ministry said Chidambaram had no role to play in withdrawing Gupta's prosecution.

"The home minister had no role in this. He (Chidambaram) said the law ministry's advice and petition should be followed to the Delhi government," Home Secretary R.K. Singh told reporters.

On whether Chidambaram had appeared for Gupta, the home secretary said: "No senior advocate ever remembers who he advised a year ago."

BJP leader Yashwant Sinha asked Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to sack the minister who "is not just guilty of improper conduct but is guilty of criminal offence".

"We demand he be sacked and not leave it to his discretion to resign," Sinha told reporters.

Strongly defending Chidambaram, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Rajiv Shukla said the BJP while raising the issue was "hiding law ministry opinions" regarding the case.

Minister of State in Prime Minister's Office V. Narayanasamy said BJP's Mitra raising the issue was a case of conflict of interest because the story was published in the newspaper he edited.

"He should not be allowed to raise the issue in the house. This is conflict of interest."







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