This Article is From Apr 26, 2013

Coal-gate: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar won't resign, Congress backs him

New Delhi: Law Minister Ashwani Kumar today said that he will not resign from office despite the CBI admitting that he asked to see a copy of the report on its coal investigation before it was submitted to the Supreme Court. (Read: CBI says report was shared with Law Minister, PMO)

"I have done no wrong, the truth will prevail," Mr Kumar said today, as the opposition insisted he has "lost the moral right" to remain in office.

The CBI director, Ranjit Sinha, has not disclosed whether the minister asked him to make changes, or if he accommodated these requests. Mr Sinha's affidavit to the court today says that a draft of the report was also previewed by a senior bureaucrat in the Prime Minister's Office and the Coal Ministry. (Read: CBI director's affidavit to Supreme Court)

The CBI director assured the court that "no political executive" had seen the latest status report that he submitted to the court today in a sealed cover. Sources said in that sealed envelope, the CBI has today also submitted to the court the draft report that was previewed by the Law Minister and a copy of the version that the CBI had finally submitted in court on March 8.

At a meeting with the Prime Minister, Mr Kumar allegedly did not offer to resign and said it is his job, as the government's law officer, to provide legal inputs. "There's no case against the Coal Ministry or Law Ministry," he is reported to have said. Mr Kumar said that the government should decide its course of action after the next hearing in court on April 30, when the judges will react to the CBI's affidavit.

The Congress is backing its minister for now as it waits to see how the Supreme Court reacts to the CBI's affidavit next week. Senior Congressman Kamal Nath said, as he ruled out Mr Kumar's resignation, that the latter did not see the final version of the report.

Government sources argue that the minister and officials asked to see the CBI report as part of "due consultation," to ensure that information shared with the agency was being used correctly. The Law Minister told reporters that the document he saw was a draft, and not the final version that was given to the court.

The opposition is buying neither argument. It says the CBI's revelations prove that the government tried to impede the agency's autonomy and investigation, and that the Law Minister and Prime Minister are equally accountable and must quit. (Read)

The CBI document is meant to be confidential between the agency and the judges who are monitoring why coal fields were allocated to private players without a transparent bidding process.