The Central Bureau of Investigation or CBI on Monday told the Supreme Court that on March 6 this year, Law Minister Ashwani Kumar
and officials in the Coal Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office, made three significant changes to a draft of a report on the agency's investigation into coal block allocations that it submitted three days later in court. (Read)
These changes were made at three different meetings on that day, the CBI's nine-page affidavit submitted on Monday says. In one of those, it claims, coal ministry and PMO officials visited the CBI and asked that the investigating agency delete from the report its finding that there was no weightage or points system used when allocating coal blocks.
Then, in a meeting at his office the same day, the Law Minister made two deletions in the draft report, the CBI has claimed. Mr Kumar allegedly deleted a portion that found that a screening committee reviewing applications for coal blocks did not prepare charts and reports. The affidavit says that Mr Kumar also deleted a sentence in the draft report on the agency's scope of inquiry on the legality of coal bock allocations.
In yet another meeting on that day, the CBI has said, Attorney General GE Vahanvati, representing the Centre in the case, saw the draft and suggested "minor" changes.
CBI Director Ranjit Sinha has emphasised in his report that these changes "neither altered its central theme nor shifted the focus of inquiries in any manner." He has also assured the court that no names of suspects or accused were removed from the status report and also that no suspects or accused were let off in the process. (Read CBI affidavit)
Arun Jaitley of the BJP - which has made the Law Minister's resignation a pre-condition for not disrupting Parliament and allowing the government to move important Bills - said on Monday that the three deletions that the CBI has mentioned dilutes the "culpability of the accused". He also said that the investigating report was shared with the "suspects" which is not "appropriate".
His party president Rajnath Singh, meanwhile, said the PM and the Law Minister should quit on moral grounds. (Read: who said what)
But, perhaps emboldened by the agency's statement in court that its overall investigation has not been affected, Ashwani Kumar reportedly assured the Prime Minister at a meeting soon after that the government would emerge stronger after the Supreme Court's next hearing on Wednesday. (Read)
That is when the court will decide whether the changes made by the minister and officials were indeed minor and mere corrections.
"If the Law Minister can't take decisions on this, then who will? That is what he is made a minister for, so that he can give a right preface to every decision and look at it with a legal eye," External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid said on Monday.