The ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA) was on the backfoot on Monday after the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) filed its second affidavit on the coal scam probe in the Supreme Court, stating that Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, Attorney General GE Vahanvati and officials from the PMO and the Coal Ministry had seen the report and suggested changes to it.
The revelations came as huge embarrassment to the UPA which is already battling grave corruption allegations. The opposition sought the scalp of the Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and targeted the UPA over the latest scam to the hit the government, the Railway Board bribery scandal. The opposition forced adjournment in Parliament over the two issues.
The Congress even faced attack from allies like the Samajwadi Party that sought the removal of Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal whose nephew was arrested by the CBI over bribery charges. The BJP workers held a massive protest outside his residence later on Monday, demanding his removal.
Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj threatened that Parliament will not be allowed to function until the two were removed. She accused the government of diverting attention from scams by passing bills. "Bills should not be passed when Parliament is not functioning properly. Parliament will only function when both the accused ministers (Ashwani Kumar, Pawan Kumar Bansal) resign. The resignation of ministers is a must. No bill should be passed in chaos, and we will not let any bill pass in chaos," she said.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Arun Jaitley alleged that Bansal was the main beneficiary in the Railway bribery scandal. He demanded the resignations of the PM, the Railway Minister and the Law Minister over the two cases.
On Monday, the CBI, in a nine-page affidavit, admitted to the Supreme Court that two changes were made to its probe report on coal allocations, once at the instance of the Law Minister and the other at the instance of the PMO and the Coal Ministry.
The CBI said that its draft report was seen by Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, Joint Secretary in the PMO, Shatrughan Singh and officials in the Coal Ministry.
The affidavit, however, added that both changes were minor and technical in nature. No names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and no suspect or accused was let off, it stated.
The report was also seen by Attorney General GE Vahanvati, who recommended changes, and the Additional Solicitor General, the affidavit said. A series of three meetings were held - between the CBI and government officials at Vahanvati's office, the Law Minister's office and at the CBI headquarters.
In its defence, the CBI stated that the agency's manual is silent on whether a status report can be shared or not.
Anti-corruption activist and Supreme Court advocate Prashant Bhushan said, "There were at least three different sets of meetings which took place between the CBI and various officials from the government to make changes in the report. One meeting was in the Law Minister's office. Another meeting was in the Attorney General's office and the third meeting was in the CBI headquarters. It shows that gross contempt of court has been committed."
Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal was defensive. "I have not given any report. If the CBI has given any name regarding this then go and ask them. I won't comment anything regarding the CBI and the court."
Congress leader and I&B Minister Manish Tewari said, "In a matter that is subjudice, we believe in conveying through our law officers in court."
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