Saturday, August 25, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Forged letter: CBI files FIR
Dasmunshi stands by document on AI disinvestment
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 24 
The CBI today registered a regular case in connection with the forgery of a letter allegedly written by the Cabinet Secretary to the Prime Minister on the disinvestment of public sector aviation giant Air India.

“We have registered a case of forgery against unknown persons following a written request from the Cabinet Secretariat,” CBI sources told The Tribune.

The controversy erupted after the debate on disinvestment in Lok Sabha yesterday produced a drama of sorts with the Congress MP, Mr P.R. Dasmunshi, quoting from a letter purportedly written by Cabinet Secretary opposing Air India disinvestment, retracted when Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie termed it as a “forgery” and announced a CBI probe into it.

In the wake of Mr Shourie’s statement, Mr Dasmunshi had said in the Lok Sabha he was withdrawing all his allegations in the matter and had demanded a probe into the letter to ascertain whether it was a genuine or a forged document.

However, the entire controversy took a new turn today with the Congress asserting that Mr Dasmunshi stood by the authenticity of the communication and would withdraw and apologise only if it is proved that the document was false.

Meanwhile, the government today assured that there would be no compromise on security in the strategic sale of Air-India and the disinvestment process in public enterprises would be “as transparent as possible.”

Replying to a calling attention motion on disinvestment in the Rajya Sabha, Disinvestment Minister Arun Shourie said he would take up with the Finance Ministry the Congress proposal for setting up a national equity fund from the disinvestment proceeds for improving the health of PSUs.

Agreeing with Leader of the Opposition Manmohan Singh, Mr Shourie said strategic sale should not be the only route for disinvesting public sector equity and that the government would adopt all other options on a case-by-case basis.

He refuted allegations that tainted companies were allowed to have access to important information on PSUs like Air-India.

To ensure that the bidders did not provide false information, there was provision to force the bidder providing wrong information to sell back the shares of Air India at 50 per cent of the buying price, the minister said.

Earlier, in his written statement, Mr Shourie had said that a factor which seemed to be scaring away bidders was the din, and the avalanche of allegations that descended on parties once it became known that they were in the race for a PSU.

The minister said the government continued to believe that swift implementation of the decisions taken by the Cabinet Committee on Disinvestment was the one way to restore these PSUs health and to protect the jobs of workers and other employees.

Initiating the discussion on motion on disinvestment, Dr Manmohan Singh said a national equity fund should be created to ensure that disinvestment proceeds were not misused for filling the budgetary gaps.

Former Law Minister Ram Jethmalani’s statement in the House created flutter when he said he was advising Hindujas in the Bofors case, triggering questions whether he could raise the issue after processing the case as a minister.Back

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