New Delhi: UPA II
battled a crisis Tuesday after the Supreme Court censured the
Manmohan Singh government for meddling in the CBI investigation
into coal block allocations, setting the stage for more paralysing
fireworks in parliament.
And on a day Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal resigned
after taking on Attorney General G.E. Vahanvati, anguished Supreme
Court judges demanded that the Central Bureau of Investigation
(CBI) be "liberated" from "extraneous consideration, influences
The court ruling followed CBI director Ranjit Sinha's admission
that his agency had shared the status report on the coal block
allocations probe with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and an official
of the Prime Minister's Office.
On Tuesday, Sinha added to the mess by admitting what critics and
activists have been alleging for long: that the CBI was not an
"independent organisation" and that he was "part of the
With general elections due next year amid speculation that it
could be held earlier, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) declared
that it would not attend any meeting of Lok Sabha Speaker Meira
Kumar and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Kamal Nath.
Congress sources admitted that it was becoming politically
untenable to defend the law minister but underlined no action
would be taken in haste.
A Supreme Court bench headed by Justice R.M. Lodha came out with a
trenchant criticism of the government for interfering in the CBI's
probe into coal blocks allocations. It asked the agency to file an
affidavit stating the changes made in the report vetted by
Minister Ashwani Kumar.
Judges Lodha, Madan Lokur and Kurien Joseph said the affidavit to
be filed by the CBI director should be "candid, truthful,
absolutely complete and founded on records".
Noting that its trust in the agency has been breached, the judges
observed: "We believed you and trusted you... this is how the
draft report was changed... the court was kept in dark."
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who watched without expression a
war of words on the issue between opposition and treasury benches
in the Lok Sabha, said later: "We are studying the Supreme Court
observation and we will take appropriate action."
The opposition sharpened its knives.
The BJP called the UPA II government the most corrupt since
India's Independence and said Manmohan Singh could not escape
accountability for the overall mess.
"Each passing day reinforces that the prime minister is not coming
out clean before the apex court... He cannot escape
accountability," said BJP spokesperson Ravi Shankar Prasad.
"It is a situation of total breakdown but the government is
responsible, not me," BJP's Sushma Swaraj said, adding that the
"countdown" for the government's fall has begun.
To add to the government's discomfiture, Additional Solicitor
General Rawal resigned, a day after he accused Attorney General
Vahanvati of influencing the CBI probe into irregularities in the
allotment of coal blocks.
"You know that I don't speak on such matters," Raval told IANS.
The UPA II government has found itself in a growing morass of
allegations of corruption over allocations in 2G spectrum and now
The latest crisis erupted last week when the CBI told the Supreme
Court that it shared its March 8 status report on investigations
with Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and a senior bureaucrat in the PMO.
Parliament has remained paralysed since April 22, when it
reconvened for the second half of the budget session after a
month-long recess. On Tuesday, it was again adjourned for the day
after aggressive MPs from both sides took on one another.
India's official auditor had last year revealed that the lack of
transparency in the allocation of coal blocks to private players
resulted in the loss of $37 billion as on March 11, 2011. The
report does not directly indict the prime minister or his office.
But during the time these mining blocks were allotted, the coal
portfolio was held by Manmohan Singh (between July 2004 and May