Cover blown

Cover blown

The Supreme Court’s expression of displeasure over the CBI sharing its status report on coal block allocations with the government has made the continuance of law minister Ashwani Kumar in the ministry untenable.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha told the court that it was specifically at the instance of Kumar that he met him and other government representatives and made changes in the report.  This was nothing but tampering with the investigation and misrepresenting its conclusions. The impropriety is compounded by the fact that the Supreme Court had barred the CBI from sharing its report with the government. This was defiance of the highest court. It is unfortunate that the CBI found nothing wrong in its action. It actually amounted to an accused in a case dictating the terms of investigation and deciding the conclusions.

It is also a matter of concern that the CBI does not find its action abnormal, though the court found its action disturbing. Ranjit Sinha sought to justify it with the comment that the CBI is not autonomous and was part of the government. His subsequent clarification on the CBI being part of a system where consultation is needed does not refute the sense of the earlier comment. Both the CBI and the government had always denied that the agency is the handmaiden of the Centre and that it worked to serve the interests of its political masters. But the pretension has been exposed with the public confession. If consultation with the government is in order even in cases where the government’s wrongdoing is  probed, such investigation can never be fair and impartial.

The country’s top law officers have also been shown as lacking in professional integrity and respect for the rule of law and the norms and practices that should underlie it. They were willing to lie to the Supreme Court to shield the government and the CBI. Additional Solicitor General  Harin Raval has resigned after his statement to the court that the government had not seen the report came to be disproved. He has now indicted attorney general GE Vahanwati whose role was also highly questionable. The whole episode casts a shadow not just on the conduct of some individuals but on the entire government. Even the prime minister cannot escape responsibility though he was not directly involved in it. Senior officers of the PMO and the coal ministry which he headed were involved. The entire government is in the dock.

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