M A I N   N E W S

Rashtrapati Bhavan to take legal advice
Nanavati Commission order

New Delhi, September 25
The Rashtrapati Bhavan will take legal advice this week on the Nanavati Commission directive to the President’s office seeking the letters written in 2002 by then President K.R. Narayanan to then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in connection with Gujarat riots that had followed the fire in the Sabarmati Express at Godhra.

Official sources today said the Rashtrapati Bhavan would seek the opinion of the Law Ministry and Attorney General Milon Banerjee and other legal experts on the order of the inquiry commission, which had on September 6 rejected its special privilege plea. Yesterday, the President’s office had sought two weeks’ from the commission to respond to its demand for the letters.

“We would go for legal advice in the next few days,” the sources said.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan has maintained that it enjoys privilege under Article 74(2) of the Constitution and as such need not disclose the contents of any communication from the President, present or past.

The sources would also not rule out the possibility of the Rashtrapati Bhavan challenging the commission’s directive. Such a move would depend on the legal advice.

Justice G.T. Nanavati and Justice K.G. Shah had upheld the arguments of Mukul Sinha, counsel for the riot victims, that the special privilege claimed by the Rashtrapati Bhavan was valid only if the issues involved related to defence, diplomatic relations and internal security.

The lawyer had resorted to a 1993 Supreme Court judgment to substantiate his contention. The commission is inquiring into the riots. The commission had asked the President’s office to provide the letters following Mr Narayanan’s reported disclosure that he had asked Mr Vajpayee to deploy the Army in Gujarat to contain the violence, but his advice had gone unheeded.

The commission, however, refused to summon Mr Narayanan as the former President had subsequently clarified that he had nothing more to add.

The Rashtrapati Bhavan also would not agree with another contention that Article 74(2) pertained only to deliberations and decisions relating to the Union Cabinet, the sources said. — UNI

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