President had initially opposed Padma Bhushan for Chatwal

Prez Pratibha Patil had been unwilling to toe the govt’s line on awarding Padma Bhushan to Chatwal.

Updated: Feb 05, 2010, 12:42 PM IST

Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: The controversy regarding the decision to award Padma Bhushan to NRI hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal is far from over. A report on Friday claimed that President Pratibha Patil had been unwilling to toe the government’s line and had asked for clarifications.

As per the newspaper report, Rashtrapati Bhavan was concerned about the controversy surrounding his discharge in bank fraud cases.

The President consented after government’s assurance of removing Chatwal’s name if any unfavorable finding came up before the award ceremony, scheduled in March.

As per the report, Home Secretary GK Pillai has assured Pratibha Patil of not going ahead with awarding Chatwal inclusion if any controversy surfaces.

Pillai further said that, the CBI, which once was probing Chatwal’s role for alleged bank fraud has taken a decision not to appeal against his discharge in the cases.

Interestingly, Chatwal’s nomination was backed by two Union ministers - Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi.

Earlier, the issue was raked up by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), which dispatched a letter to President Pratibha Patil and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh demanding that the award be taken back.

Chatwal, who is considered close to former US President Bill Clinton and his wife and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was earlier chargesheeted by the CBI for an alleged USD 9 million fraud case connected with the State Bank of India. He had allegedly defaulted on paying back the money he owed to the bank.

The hotelier was acquitted in one of the four cases in 2008 but since the Director of Prosecution opposed an appeal in the matter, the case was closed.

Chatwal had recently announced that his Hampshire Hotels chain would set up 25 hotels in India by 2011.