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Turmoil over the Coalgate CBI affidavit in court – everything now depends on the Supreme Court




Every few weeks, we run into some sort of controversy where a minister of the Government does something or the other, and there comes a call for the person to resign. The opposition, primarily the BJP (and sometimes supported by other parties) try to needle the Government and give a call for the resignation of the concerned Minister and once in a while also that of the Prime Minister. The Government of course deploys a number of its ministers to rebut this call and call some names to the BJP and unveil the Prime Minister to further try and bring in the honest angle to the Congress response. The current situation with regard to the CBI affidavit is causing some problem to the party though, bringing in something that has always been undeclared out in the open. And this is the situation with regard to the control of the Government over the CBI.
The CBI is technically an investigating agency that is supposed to be independent, and yet is administratively under the control of the Government. It reports into the MOS Narayanswamy, who in reports into the Prime Minister. But, this is meant for administrative purposes, and the CBI is supposed to be under the functional control of the CVC, and not to the political executive. Unfortunately, given the power of the CBI as the premier investigating agency of the country, the temptation to prevent the CBI from exposing certain problems is very high. And that is what the CBI has been doing over the years; people remember the case of the Bofors investigation, they remember the many defense deals, they remember the initial state of the 2G investigation (where the Supreme Court finally had to step in to prevent this investigation from reaching the dead end). In the case of the 2G scam, the CBI literally was directed into doing its job, with threats of contempt if there was any collaboration with the Government. And the CBI directors have gone ahead with this, since there has never been any threat to them if they followed the directions of the Government.
In the current case of the investigation into the coal scam, there was an assumption by the court that the CBI will act in an independent manner. So, when it asked the CBI about whether there was any interaction with the political executive, the last court submission by the lawyer for the CBI, Additional Solicitor General H P Raval in March had declared that there was no interaction with the political executive. Keep in mind that he was the counsel for the CBI. And then the court came up with the googly. It asked the CBI Director to file a personal affidavit that there was no interaction with the Government executive, and this really landed up the CBI Director in a problem. If he filed a false affidavit and this was exposed, he could be exposed to the literal fury of the Supreme Court and there would be no support from the Government.
So, news started coming out that he CBI Director will file a revised affidavit, and this time file what really happened. And what he revealed is exposing what literally happens in the Government, particularly in this UPA Government. The CBI is investigating a case where there are accusations of Government involvement in corruption, and where the Prime Minister was the coal minister for a couple of years in the period under question. In such a situation, it is very inappropriate and probably illegal for the Law Minister as well as officials from the Coal Ministry and the PMO to have asked to see the report. And of course, the CBI Director docilely agreed and showed them the report. When he was presented with the prospect of having to lie to the Supreme Court, that is when he finally declared the truth. In this entire matter, all of these people are culpable. Why did the CBI Director agreed to the earlier affidavit ? Why were officials from the PMO and the Coal Ministry asking to see the report ? What was the Law Minister asking to see the report ?
Unfortunately, I really don’t believe that the Supreme Court will do more than say a few words. When there have been occasions to strike hard against mistakes by the political executive, the court has very rarely taken action, most often it is just words. It was only the CVC case where the Court spoke against the Prime Minister and over-turned the decision that he taken. In other cases, even when it came to the responsibility of Chidambaram in the 2G case (where he was responsible for financial approval for every major decision taken by the Government, including the costing of the licenses), they have let these people go. What is really required is to understand that the CBI in its current form is now a flawed instrument, very heavily controlled by the Government. What is needed to either set the CBI apart from the Government, or to appoint special investigating teams (such as the Special Prosecutors who investigated the case of Bill Clinton) where there is heavy Government influence (and most cases in the recent past, starting from Bofors, cases against the wealth gain of politicians, etc fill this kind of requirement).




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