Salman Khurshid produces `proof` of camps; Arvind Kejriwal rebuts
New Delhi: Law Minister Salman Khurshid on Sunday admitted the need for probing "forgery" of signatures of an Uttar Pradesh government official but denied allegations of embezzlement by his NGO, while activist Arvind Kejriwal insisted on his resignation and promised more evidence of fraud on Monday.
Addressing a crowded press conference at his residence, Khurshid produced documents and pictures to prove that camps were held in Uttar Pradesh to provide hearing aids and tricycles to the disabled. He said he will meet Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to "share his experiences".
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), meanwhile, demanded a probe into the allegations of forgery while Khurshid earlier told a news channel in an interview that he would resign if allegations of his involvement in any forgery were proved to be true and leave politics.
Khurshid denied any wrongdoing by the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, of which he is president and wife Louise is project director, and said he would pursue legal action against a TV news channel which first aired allegations of financial misappropriation in the running of the trust.
The minister lost his cool during the press conference after arguments with correspondents of the TV news channel, and at one point, even stood up to end the interaction and asked a journalist from the channel to shut up and leave.
An agitated Khurshid said he will see the media group in the court.
Referring to a "draft" Comptroller and Auditor General report (CAG) which pointed to irregularities in the running of the trust, Khurshid said it had not been given documents but would factor them in the future.
"Documents were given to the ministry. Why (they) did not get to CAG, don`t know," he said.
Asked about the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry writing to the trust, Khurshid said it had sought clarifications and not ordered an inquiry.
The minister sought a probe into a letter with the forged signature of an Uttar Pradesh government official.
"It is true that there was a letter to the central government... that people have denied signature. That letter we wanted checked by the UP government," he said.
There have been allegations that the letter with a forged signature recommended sanction of funds to the trust for 2010-11 and led to the Social Justice Ministry`s nod for the money in March 2011.
Denying that Louise had met Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav to get more money for the trust, Khurshid said she went to get an inquiry ordered.
Louise said 34 camps were held in the state and produced utilisation certificate for purchase of appliances for the disabled people.
The certificate, signed by a chartered accountant, said that of over Rs 77 lakh spent on camps in 2009-2010, Rs 71.50 lakh was by way of assistance from the Social Justice and Empowerment Ministry and the rest by way of donations by private individuals and establishments.
"Nothing on Rs 71 lakh can be proved...They can scream, scream and scream till they turn red in their face," Khurshid said.
Asked if there should be independent inquiry, he said: "Let there be any inquiry by any authority. It can be CAG... But the inquiry should cover the role of India Today group as well."
Asked whether he would resign, Khurshid said: "I will submit my resignation if (India Today editor-in-chief) Aroon Purie also steps down."
The minister also produced a beneficiary of the camp who contradicted his earlier remarks that he had not been given a hearing aid by the trust.
Indicating that he would abide by the directive of the central leadership concerning his resignation, Khurshid said: "I am a party worker first."
The minister said he has no option but file a defamation case against Aaj Tak, the TV news channel of the India Today Group.
Louise on Friday filed a civil defamation suit in the Delhi High Court against the group seeking damages of Rs 100 crore, court sources said.
Refusing to buy the minister`s story, Kejriwal said his organisation will produce fresh evidence against Khurshid on Monday.
"We will produce fresh evidence against Salman Khurshid at 11 am on Monday."
"Till Khurshid remains the Law Minister, he can destroy each and every evidence against him. There will be no fair inquiry into it," he added.
Hours after Khurshid produced pictures and documents to prove camps for the disabled were held, Kejriwal said that the Law Minister has refused to answer any question he put to him.
Seemingly dissatisfied with Khurshid’s defence, Kejriwal also questioned why Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is silent on the episode.
"Why is Prime Minister silent over the issue? Does he think Khurshid need to resign?" he asked.
“If the PM says no need for Khurshid to resign, we`ll go back and ensure a differently abled person defeats him in 2014 elections.”
Meanwhile, BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh told a TV channel that there was need for an inquiry into allegations against the trust and Khurshid should resign till the probe is completed.
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