Thursday, May 2, 2013

Coal Scam: Ahead of SC hearing, ASG Rawal says Vahanvati tried to influence CBI coal probe

In a major embarrassment to the government on the eve of the crucial Supreme Court hearing on its alleged bid to influence the CBI investigation of controversial coal blocks allotments, Additional Solicitor General Harin Rawal Monday accused Attorney General G E Vahanvati of trying to influence the CBI probe while making him a "scapegoat" in the case.

Read Express Editorial: CBI-law minister controversy frames a sobering pattern

Rawal wrote a letter to Vahanvati and marked a copy to Law Minister Ashwani Kumar, who is at the centre of the controversy.

Rawal's outburst comes amid indications that the government is unhappy with him for telling the court in March that the CBI's status report on the coal blocks allotments probe had not been shared with the political executive.

It also comes a day after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh held a meeting with Vahanvati to discuss the case. Rawal's own role is also under the scanner as he was present at the March 5 meeting — along with Vahanvati, CBI director Ranjit Sinha and other officials — called by the law minister and changes were apparently made in the report.

Read Maneesh Chhibber's column: Will Supreme Court use the opportunity to free it from government shackles?

Sources said the government has taken a dim view of the ASG writing a damning letter to the AG on the eve of such a crucial court hearing.

Vahanvati, when reached, refused to comment on the issue.

In his letter, Rawal has provided a detailed breakdown of the meeting last month where Kumar asked for changes to be made to the CBI report, presented to the Supreme Court days later. Rawal has also said he received an SMS from the Attorney General to come to the law minister's office with the status report.

Days after the meeting, Rawal, who is representing the CBI in court, told the Supreme Court unequivocally that the report had not been vetted by anyone in the political executive.

In his affidavit on the coal blocks allotment probe filed in the Supreme Court Friday, CBI director Sinha admitted the status report was shared with the law minister as well as PMO and coal ministry officials.

The Indian Express had first reported on April 13 that the CBI was inclined to inform the Supreme Court that the controversial probe status report had been vetted by the law minister.

Tuesday's hearing in the Supreme Court will be held before a changed bench consisting of Justices R M Lodha, Madan Lokur and Kurian Joseph, with Joseph replacing Justice J Chelameswar who was on the previous bench with Lodha and Lokur.
Maneesh Chhibber : New Delhi, Tue Apr 30 2013, 09:57 hrs

Never interfered in CBI coal scam report: attorney general VahanvatiAttorney general GE Vahanvati on Wednesday issued a clarification over the letter sent by former additional solicitor general Harin Raval which accused him of having tried to influence the CBI probe in the coal blocks allocation scam, reports said.

According to Vahanvati he never interfered with CBI's report.

Raval, who appeared for the CBI on March 12 and told the Supreme Court that the agency was carrying out an independent probe, wrote the letter to the government's top law officer, Vahanvati.

Raval is learnt to have said in his letter that he was not willing to be made a scapegoat in the entire matter and Vahanvati was present in the meeting attended by the law minister and CBI director among others on March 5 in which the agency's draft report was allegedly changed.

In his letter, Raval is understood to have narrated how he got an SMS from AG to reach law minister Ashwani Kumar's office with the CBI status report.

The agency blamed Raval for "overstepping" his brief since he had said in the court that there was no political interference in the CBI's probe in the coal scam.

The Supreme Court had directed CBI director Ranjit Sinha to file an affidavit assuring that he had vetted the status report following Raval's statement.

Contacted for his response, Raval refused to confirm or deny his letter.

"When I was blamed nobody asked me, so why are you asking me now," he told HT.

Vahanvati could not be contacted for his response. Government sources said the spat between two of their senior law officers barely hours before the crucial hearing in the Supreme Court was not a welcome sign.

The court may ask the government to file an affidavit in response to the Sinha's revelation. It will also scrutinise the latest status report that the CBI says has not been shared with anybody in the government.
Agencies  New Delhi, May 01, 2013
First Published: 19:46 IST(1/5/2013) | Last Updated: 19:55 IST(1/5/2013)

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