Kejriwal, Khurshid war hots up

Defamation case filed against TV channel

Kejriwal, Khurshid war hots up

The war of attrition between Arvind Kejriwal and Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid and his wife, Louis, intensified on Saturday. Kejriwal had alleged that an NGO run by the Khurshids misappropriated Rs 71.5 lakh allocated for programmes to benefit the physically challenged.

Denying the charges, Louis said a civil defamation case was filed in the Delhi High Court against a Hindi TV channel, which, in a sting operation, showed that the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust was granted Rs 71.5 lakh by the Union Social Welfare and Empowerment Ministry for distributing tricycles and hearing aids to disabled persons in 17 districts in Uttar Pradesh.

A report from Lucknow also claimed that Rs 68 lakh was given to the trust on the basis of a forged letter.

Khurshid reportedly sought damages worth Rs 100 crore. Louis, project director of the NGO, also said she had approached the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG), whose draft report pointed at certain irregularities.

The auditing agency said that her version would be considered before finalising the report. Meanwhile, in a demonstration in the national capital, Kejriwal alleged that Khurshid and Louise did not organise health camps in 10 of the 17 districts. He demanded that the law minister and his wife be arrested.  Louis pointed out that there was video evidence to prove that health camps were conducted in all the districts. “In 2009-10, we distributed hearing aids to over 2,500 people. We have got the checklist, you can check each one of them.”  Regarding the alleged forgery, Louis said she has bills to prove that Rs 68 lakh was spent on buying appliances. “Salman Khurshid is in London at present and will return and answer the charges on Monday,” she said.

Only an excerpt

On the reported findings by the CAG, Louis said in a statement: “The document is merely an excerpt of an internal inspection report seeking certain certificates from the Ministry of Social Justice and Employment. We categorically reiterate that there has been no misappropriation of any funds. All appropriate documents, including proof of camps, all beneficiary lists and utilisation certificate duly audited, have been submitted”, she stated.

“There is no inquiry against Khurshid by the Central government or any report against him by the CAG. Why should he step down?” the minister’s wife asked.

Khurshid, who had vociferously defended Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s son-in-law Robert Vadra when Kejriwal made allegations against him, got support from the party and the government. Information and Broadcasting Minister Ambika Soni questioned whether it was fair to demand resignations by creating pressure through “dharnas.”

She asserted that Khurshid “has a reputation” of being a “very upright” person and “is an honourable” political leader, whose side of the story needed to be heard. Defending Khurshid, Congress spokesperson Manish Tiwari said: “Untruth cannot become the basis for crucifying anybody. Till court pronounces, everyone enjoys equal protection. They are innocent unless proved guilty.”

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