Friday, August 24, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Tehelka issue rocks Houses again
Home Ministry to probe news portal’s methods
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 23
The Tehelka expose rocked Parliament for the second day today with the government being forced to make a statement in the Lok Sabha and exchanges between ruling party members and those from the Opposition leading to an adjournment in the Rajya Sabha.

In the Lok Sabha, the government announced that the Home Ministry will conduct an inquiry into Tehelka’s methods of using prostitutes to lure Army officers during the investigations into defence deals and anyone found guilty of defying law would be given the strictest punishment.

Parliamentary Affairs Minister Pramod Mahajan said everybody was equal in the eyes of the law and journalists were not excluded. The Army officers involved in the tapes would suffer the consequences as per the law, he said.

Earlier, Opposition parties renewed their demand for a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) to look into the startling revelations made by Tehelka on defence deals even as members from the Treasury Benches continued to ask for stern action against the news portal for using prostitutes during their sting operation.

Amid noisy scenes in the House during zero hour, Congress deputy leader Madhavrao Scindia and CPM’s Somnath Chatterjee said Tehelka’s methods could be questionable, but what was most farcical was the “drama” being enacted by NDA members to divert attention from the actual findings on how defence deals were being carried out at the risk of national security.

Charging the government with maintaining silence while MPs from their alliance were making a big noise about yesterday’s disclosures, the Congress and CPM leaders said the government must reconsider the demand for a JPC into the entire defence scam.

In the Rajya Sabha, a determined Opposition vociferously objected to the admissibility of a special mention by a Samata Party member on investigative journalism, leading to the adjournment of  the House till 2 p.m.

As soon as Samata member Rajiv Ranjan Singh “Lalan” rose to make his special mention on “trifling with the national security by means of the so-called investigative journalism”, the entire Opposition, led by the Congress, was up on its decision to allow the member to raise the issue as it was sub judice.

Amid shouts and counter-shouts, Chairman Krishan Kant allowed the Samata Party member to make his submission without mentioning the name of the newspaper.

But Congress and Left party members insisted that the issue could not be raised as the matter was being probed by a judicial commission. In the uproar, Congress member Suresh Pachouri was heard saying that the issue pertained to the national security and former Defence Minister George Fernandes should be arrested.

The House, which took up as many as 11 special mentions earlier, plunged into turmoil when Lalan started making the last special mention with some BJP members waving copies of the newspaper carrying the news item on Tehelka yesterday.

This sparked noisy protests from the Opposition, leading to a procedural wrangle with Congress member Kapil Sibal insisting on raising a point of order and the Chairman disallowing it saying that he had given a ruling on its admissibility.

The Chairman said a member could not question the ruling of the Chair on admissibility amid shouts of “shame, shame” from the ruling benches.

“According to the rule book, the Chairman’s ruling cannot be questioned or criticised. To protest against the ruling is contempt of the House and the Chairman,” he said.

Senior Congress member Pranab Mukherjee said they were not trying to question the Chair’s ruling which they would dare not but the issue was the admissibility of the issue which was sub judice.


Samata may file FIR against Tejpal

New Delhi, August 23
Faced with the reluctance of the Atal Behari Vajpayee government to take strict action against chief Tarun Tejpal, the Samata Party is contemplating lodging an FIR against him.

According to well-placed political sources the development (the lodging of an FIR against Mr Tejpal by Samata MPs) could take place within the next 48 hours itself.

There is a possibility that some BJP MPs may also join their Samata colleagues in lodging the FIR.


Tejpal hits back

New Delhi, August 23
In a new twist, the Tehelka web portal today alleged that a former Samata Party functionary had himself offered sex workers to its reporter who had posed as an arms dealer during the website’s sting operations.

Tarun Tejpal, CEO of the portal, claimed that they had found new material in the tapes wherein Mr R.K. Jain, former national treasurer of the Samata Party, who figured prominently when the tapes were released for the first time in March this year, was allegedly seen “pimping for girls”.

“He not only offered girls to our reporter, who was posing as an arms dealer, but also presented them to him (the journalist),” Tejpal said.

He said the website went through all its tapes once again in the wake of the “furore being created by the Samata Party” following the publication of the sex aspect of the expose. PTI

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