The Attorney General GE Vahanvati has advised the government against going to court to seek exemption for Dr Manmohan Singh from FIRs or police complaints being registered by the opposition BJP across the country in connection with the coal swindle. The government is likely to accept his opinion.
The government is concerned that the Prime Minister could be questioned by the police in connection with the coal scam, worth 1.86 lakh crores according to the national auditor. So it was keen to ask for immunity for Dr Manmohan Singh, say sources.
The Congress has backed the government's move. Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid told NDTV that many are making a mockery of the system and the government needs to take action.
"If the Attorney General has given that opinion, we'll make it available to the Home Minister. Doesn't take much legal knowledge to know that with people filing cases all over the country, you cannot consolidate them unless they reach court... It would be dealt with locally... It should be a concern not just for the government but for every citizen that we're making a mockery of the rules of law... We have a robust legal and judicial system...The judiciary won't allow the system to be taken for a ride," Mr Khurshid said.
The BJP has launched a high-volume campaign against the Prime Minister because he was in charge of the Coal Ministry when some coal blocks were allocated at below-market rates. The auditor or CAG said in a report in August that the method of allocation lacked transparency, but did not indict either the Prime Minister or his office.
The BJP is filing police cases against Coal Minister Sriprakash Jaiswal, Sonia Gandhi who is the chairperson of the ruling UPA coalition, and the Prime Minister.
Home Minister Sushil Kumar Shinde and the PM reportedly met on September 21 to discuss the possibility of him being summoned for questioning because the BJP has named him in FIRs (First Information Reports) or police complaints. The Home Minister suggested that a petition be filed in the Supreme Court for exemption for the Prime Minister from FIRs.
He said the petition could argue that the CBI is already investigating the alleged swindle, and the matter is sub-judice because the Supreme Court has asked the government to explain the policy it followed in assigning coal blocks.
However, Attorney General GE Vahanvati advised against this. "It would be inadvisable to take any immediate steps at this stage since there does not seem to be any remedy available to seek omnibus protection," he opined.
In India, the President, Governors of states, the Chief Justice of the country cannot be included in FIRs. However, the head of the executive does not have this legal protection.