CBI: Law Minister, PMO made changes to coal-gate report
In what spells more trouble for the Law Minister and could probably put the scam-tainted UPA government in a...
In what spells more trouble for the Law Minister and could probably put the scam-tainted UPA government in a tight spot, the CBI Director admitted before the Supreme Court that certain changes were made in the coalgate draft report. A In its nine-page affidavit, CBI chief Ranjit Sinha gave details of the meetings which took place between the officials of the probe agency, the Law Minister, AG, then Additional Solicitor General Harin Raval and officials of PMO and Coal Ministry. The submission made by Mr Sinha contradicts the stand taken by the Law Minister and AG, who had refuted the allegation that they had suggested changes in the draft report. The affidavit however, said the changes made in the draft report on the suggestion of the Law Minister and Vanahvati have "neither altered the report nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner". Mr Sinha also said that "no names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and also that no suspect or accused was let off in the process." "Majority of these changes were done by my officers in order to refine the report either on their own or in consultation with the ASG (Raval) and his assisting advocate or by Law minister. Besides, a few changes were also done on the suggestion of AG and officials of PMO and Coal Ministry," Mr Sinha said. The Director, however, said, "It is difficult at this stage to attribute each change to a particular person with certainty." The CBI chief in his affidavit also referred to certain changes made in the final status report on the suggestion of the law minister, the AG, and the officials of PMO and coal ministry. "The tentative finding about non-existence of a system regarding allocation of specific weightage/ points was deleted at the instance of the officials of PMO and coal ministry. "The other tentative findings about non-preparation of broadsheet or chart by the screening committee to the best of my recollection was deleted by the law minister," the affidavit said. The affidavit also says, "These changes made by the law minister, PMO and coal ministry officials were accepted by the CBI as they pertained to its tentative findings." It further says that "the deletion of a sentence about the scope of inquiry with respect to illegalities of allocation while the amendment to law was in process, was done by law minister." The CBI affidavit also names officials of PMO and Coal ministry, who had perused the draft report and on whose suggestions changes were made in it. Mr. Sinha said Shatrughan Singh and A K Bhalla, the joint secretaries in PMO and ministry of coal respectively were "in regular interaction" with his officers with regard to ongoing inquiry in the coal scam. "It is submitted that sharing of status report with the persons mentioned above and the consequent changes therein have neither altered the central theme of the report nor shifted the focus of the inquiry or investigation in any manner," the affidavit says. "The central theme of the status report had not changed post meetings. There were no deletions of any evidence against any suspect or accused nor were any let off," the affidavit said. Extending unconditional apology for any inadvertent omission or commission, Mr. Sinha said there is nothing in the CBI manual to guide whether status reports in an ongoing investigation in a sub-judice matter are to be shared with others. "The departmental circular and government instructions are also silent on this point," Sinha said, while answering a specific question posed by the apex court on the last hearing as to on what basis the law minister and officials were entitled to go through CBI status report. He also said there are no minutes of meetings which took place with law minister and officials of PMO and coal ministry and details of his affidavit "are based on best recollection of my memory and of my officers". The affidavit also said that there was no intention to suppress from the Supreme Court the fact that the draft report was shared with political executive and government officials. "Since it was our honest and bonafide belief that there was no specific direction on this issue by this court, it did not occur to us that the fact ought to be brought to the notice of this court. "It is humbly submitted that there was no intention whatsoever to suppress this fact from this court," he said. The CBI director also made it clear that Mr. Raval had made a statement on his own that the status report was not shared with anyone.