Sibal under fire from SC, PAC; says no disrespect meant

Last Updated: Saturday, January 22, 2011 - 00:45

New Delhi: Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal
today came under attack from the Supreme Court and a
Parliamentary Committee for rubbishing the CAG report on 2G
scam, with both questioning whether his comments were
responsible and as per the constitutional propriety.

Responding to criticism, Sibal said "canards" had to be
replied to but maintained he meant no disrespect to any
institution.

The Supreme Court, while hearing the 2G spectrum case,
rapped Sibal for undermining the CAG report.

"It is unfortunate. The minister should behave with
some sense of responsibility," a bench comprising Justices G S
Singhvi and A K Ganguly said.

"In our opinion, the CBI which is conducting
investigation into the 2G scam is expected to carry out the
probe without being influenced by the statement made by
anybody, anywhere, including the press," the bench said.

Chairman of Parliament`s Public Accounts Committee (PAC)
Murli Manohar Joshi also took strong objection to Sibal`s
remarks against the CAG report and requested Lok Sabha Speaker
Meira Kumar to take "prompt" and "effective" steps to stop
such "constitutional impropriety" by ministers.

Sibal had rubbished the CAG findings in 2G spectrum
allocation that the loss to the exchequer was to the tune of
Rs 1.76 lakh crore, saying these were "utterly erroneous".

Joshi questioned whether it was appropriate for Sibal
who is holding the charge of the ministry concerned, to cast
aspersions on CAG report after it was tabled in Parliament.

In the letter to Kumar, Joshi asked whether Sibal had
expressed "such views of far-reaching implications and
consequences with the knowledge and permission" of Prime
Minister Manmohan Singh.

"As Speaker of the Lok Sabha, you are the only
authority to whom the Committee (PAC) can approach for seeking
clarification from the minister on the above issues and advise
the Committee," Joshi wrote in the two-page letter dated
January 19 copies of which were distributed to the media.

Reacting to the attack, Sibal said, "I wish to clarify
that the kind of canards that was being spread on the basis of
that (CAG) report needed to be responded to and there was no
avenue left to the government."

He said that he could say with "some level of
confidence" that he had "never ever willfully or otherwise
tried to bring down the authority and the respect which all
institutions deserve".

"I have always, however, also believed that there are
times when we need to state, what we believe, is the truth. It
is in that spirit that I have placed the fact before the
public domain and I hope that no institution or authority
believes that I did it with any motive or malafide intent," he
said.

At the same time, he welcomed SC`s "order that no MP or
any other person should comment or indulge in respect of
commenting on the ongoing investigation" into 2G.

"Had this order come earlier, none of such controversies
would have arisen," the Minister said. "I am fully aware of my responsibilities, my obligations,
my duties not only as a Minister but also as a citizen of this
country," Sibal said in response to question over PAC
Chairman`s complaint to the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Joshi has also enclosed clippings of newsreports on
Sibal`s press conference and the CD of an interview given by
the Telecom Minister to a TV channel.

"The statement (by Sibal) raises several issues
regarding parliamentary propriety and preserving and
respecting the independence of the CAG - an institution
established by the Constitution - and the PAC, a Committee
elected by the Parliament...," he said.

He said the three issues needed to be addressed in the
light of Sibal`s statement.

"I, therefore, beseech you to take prompt steps to
prevent the recurrence of such constitutional impropriety on
the part of the ministers. I am afraid if a situation of
confrontation between ministers and other constitutional
authorities and the Parliamentary Committees develops, then
the days of healthy and vibrant democracy are numbered,"
Joshi`s letter said.

"Already a sense of cynicism is growing and if it has to
be replaced by a sense of hope and confidence, we have to take
effective measures," it said.

Speaking to reporters, Joshi said while a minister has a
right to speak, "the issue is what and when to speak...the
Supreme Court observation is clear that there should be a
context to it...the dignity (maryada) should be followed."

He said Sibal`s statement has raised questions on
impropriety and dignity of PAC and CAG. "If CAG is wrong then
all government expenditure should be cleared without audit,"
he said.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 22, 2011 - 00:45

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