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Centre may ask Ashwani Kumar to resign?

In the wake Supreme Court’s scathing criticism of the Centre in connection with the coal blocks allocation scam, the Congress-led UPA government may ask Ashwani Kumar to resign as Union Law Minister.

Zee Media Bureau

New Delhi: In the wake Supreme Court’s scathing criticism of the Centre in connection with the coal blocks allocation scam, the Congress-led UPA government may ask Ashwani Kumar to resign as Union Law Minister.

Reports on Thursday claimed that Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh today met President Pranab Mukherjee and discussed the political situation and the continuing logjam in Parliament over the coal scam.

As per reports, the Congress government is seriously considering replacing Ashwani Kumar with a senior minister in the UPA government to end the deadlock over the issue.

Ahead of Prime Minister’s meeting with the President, Attorney General GE Vahanvati and Law Minister Ashwani Kumar met Dr Singh.

The two met the Prime Minister a day after the government was criticised by the Supreme Court in connection with the Coalgate.

Vahanvati had on Wednesday told the apex court that he had met CBI officials preparing the probe report on coal blocks allocation scam on the suggestion of the Law Minister.

So far, both the A-G and the Law Minister had denied influencing the CBI report on Coalgate. However, a nine-page affidavit submitted by CBI director Ranjit Sinha revealed that the report was shared with the A-G, the Law Minister, and officials of the PMO and Coal Ministry.

Following the apex court`s adverse observations yesterday, speculation is mounting that heads could roll in the case. Sources said even Congress president Sonia Gandhi is in favour of Ashwani Kumar being shown the door.

At yesterday`s hearing, the SC had asked the CBI not to share details of its investigations and its status report either with the political executive or officialdom including its own officers and its law officers.

The blanket ban on the CBI team investigating the coal block allocation scam on sharing its investigation with anyone except the CBI director came as the apex court bench of Justice RM Lodha, Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Kurian Joseph took serious view of the Law Minister, and joint secretaries of the PMO and Ministry of Coal being shown the report and making four amendments as sought by them.
The court said no portion of the status report would be shared in future with the Law Minister, concerned minister under whose administrative control the CBI comes, any other cabinet minister, officials of the investigating agency, its director of prosecution and its law officers except its director.

As it perused the affidavit by Sinha, the court said that "as the minister is answerable to Parliament, he can call for the progress report (into investigation of a case) but he can`t intrude and make amendments".

Coming down heavily on the investigating agency for entertaining two joint secretaries from the PMO and the Coal Ministry, Justice Lodha asked: "How could you give/show the draft report meant for the court to those whose conduct was under the scanner?"

Noting that it was almost a year since investigation was taken up by the CBI, the court said that "no substantial progress have been made except for interaction with these two officials".
Taking note of the CBI director saying that status report was neither given nor sought by the Attorney General, the court said that no such thing was mentioned in the case of the two officials who had met senior officials of the agency March 6 to suggest two changes in the status report.

"It was not sharing but alteration," Justice Lodha observed adding that "officials suggested amendments, you accepted them and amendments were carried out".

Exhorting the probe agency to show spine, Justice Lodha said: "Somebody telling you do this. Somebody telling you do that. And you agree. You must actually try to make yourself a solid rock, but you are like sand."

(With IANS inputs)

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