New Delhi: Setting
off a political storm and putting the government on the backfoot,
the CBI Friday told the Supreme Court that its status report on
investigations into coal blocks allocation was "shared" with Law
Minister Ashwani Kumar and senior officials in the Prime
Minister's Office and the coal ministry.
The disclosure of CBI director Ranjit Sinha immediately set off an
opposition clamour for the law minister's resignation for
allegedly interfering in the functioning of the premier
investigating agency. An aggressive Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)
said Sinha's statement "exposes" the government.
Ashwani Kumar, the man in the eye of the storm, said he has "not
done any wrong" and "truth will prevail". The government has ruled
out his resignation and defended him.
The government is trying to buy time till April 30 when the apex
court is expected to pass an order in the case of faulty coal
The development comes as the government is facing the opposition's
heat on the Joint Parliamentary Committee's 2G probe, which
cleared Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Finance Minister P.
Chidambaram in the spectrum allocation. This sets the stage for a
fierce opposition onslaught in the remaining two weeks of
parliament's budget session.
In the midst of all this, Manmohan Singh and Congress chief Sonia
Gandhi held discussions with the United Progressive Alliance (UPA)
allies. They also discussed ways to break the logjam in parliament
over various issues, including coal blocks and 2G.
In an affidavit filed in the apex court, the CBI director Ranjit
Sinha said: "I submit that the draft of the same (March 8 status
report) was shared with honourable union minister for law and
justice as desired by him prior to its submission before the
The two-page affidavit revealed that "besides the political
executive, it was also shared with one joint secretary level
officer each of the Prime Minister's Office and ministry of coal,
as desired by them".
On March 12, the apex court had ordered that every status report
of the investigating agency on its probe on coal allocation be
personally vetted by the CBI director and its contents not shared
with the political executive.
However, the CBI director, in his affidavit, also told the court
that the investigating agency's status report of April 26 has been
personally vetted by him and not shared with anyone, including the
Sinha promised the court that henceforth the probe's status
reports in the coal scam will not be shared with the political
The opposition came down heavily on the Congress-led government,
blaming it for interfering in the CBI's work, with Leader of
Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley saying the government
has been caught with its "pants down".
"Government has really been caught with its pants down," Jaitley
"This has gone well beyond the law minister now. The Prime
Ministers Office must explain in what context was a PMO official
shown the draft of the coal report. The affidavit has smashed
claims of no interference by government. The buck stops with the
Prime Minister's Office," he said.
Highly-placed sources said that the CBI shared the status report
as it was probing the private firms which allegedly misrepresented
their information while applying for coal licenses.
"As the prime minister was then the coal minister (in UPA-I), the
CBI had to discuss the case with the Prime Minister's Office. The
law minister is the highest law officer of the land so they had to
discuss it with him too," sources told IANS.
Senior BJP leader Jaswant Singh said "whatever applies to the law
minister applies to the PM as well. If the Prime Minister goes,
the government goes."
Terming the law minister's interference "illegal", Communist Party
of India leader Gurudas Dasgupta said: "It is very atrocious and
unprecedented. It is astonishing that the law minister, who is the
custodian of the law, has himself done such an illegal work."
But, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath said there was no
question of the law minister resigning.
"The CBI director has clearly said that the draft report was seen
by the law minister and not the final report. There is no question
of him (Ashwani Kumar) resigning," Kamal Nath told reporters here.
"There is a question of content (of the report) and much is
provided by the coal ministry, PMO and the law ministry. The CBI
procured the content and made a final report. The final report has
not been seen by the political executive," Kamal Nath said.