M A I N   N E W S

PMO’s letter to CBI leads to furore in Parliament
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 23
Members of the treasury and opposition benches created a furore in both Houses of Parliament today over an alleged attempt by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) to reopen a case against former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and over Tehelka exposé against an alleged pay off to the Best Bakery witness.

No sooner did the question hour begin, when the opposition and RJD members began to raise a storm over the issues. Leading the Opposition attack, chief whip of the BJP V.K. Malhotra charged that a letter was allegedly written by an official of the PMO to the Personnel Department, asking it to examine whether the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) could file a review petition against Mr Advani’s discharge in a court case relating to the demolition of Babri Masjid in Ayodhya in 1992.

The RJD members, led by Mr Raghunath Yadav, while waving copies of Tehelka newspaper asked for the resignation of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi as a BJP MLA had allegedly paid-off Rs 18 lakh to Best Bakery witness Zaheera Sheikh to change her stand in the court.

Shouting members held up the proceedings for nearly 15 minutes before calm was restored following an assurance from the chair to allow them to raise it during zero hour.

It proved to be a lull before the storm. With both sides shouting, Speaker Somnath Chatterjee adjourned the House for 15 minutes, during which he spoke to leaders of all parties. Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee described the letter as “unusal” and said “it is nothing but an attempt to pressurise.”

“I am telling you, it is not right to write such letters. This is not good for the government. Stop this practice,” he said, amid slogans of “ Pradhan Mantri Astipha Do” (Prime Minister, give resignation). Mr Malhotra charged the government with misusing the CBI.

Leader of the House, Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee, dismissed the Opposition charge saying that the government was not in any way interfering with the functioning of the CBI.

The letter, Mr Mukherjee said, was written by the PMO to ascertain the legal position on two revision petitions filed by witnesses in the case and “ this is the legitimate right of the government,” he said.

He recalled that in 1977, the correspondence between the then Prime Minister Moraji Desai and Deputy Prime Minister Charan Singh was never allowed to be discussed on the floor of the House.

Therefore, it was not proper to discuss the letter in the House, he said. On this, the entire Opposition, barring Mr Vajpayee, staged a brief walkout.

In the Rajya Sabha also, uproarious scenes were witnessed for nearly an hour today with the opposition BJP charging the UPA government with “grossly” interfering with the functioning of investigating agencies and the government stoutly denying the charge.

Raising the issue during zero hour, senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley said the government in an “arrogant and brazen disregard” interfered with the functioning of investigating agencies. Refuting the charge, Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Suresh Pachouri said, “I would like to make it very clear that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has never interfered with the functioning of the CBI”.

CPM’s Nilotpal Basu objected to Mr Jaitley raising other issues and wanted to know from the government whether there was any attempt by the previous regime to drop Section 120 (B) from the CBI charge sheet discharging Mr Advani in the case.

Congress member Anand Sharma alleged there were instances of directions given by the previous NDA government interfering in the functioning of investigating agencies.

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