Epideictic acrobatics won’t do; the Prime Minister should subject himself to credible investigations beyond the CBI

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s assertions that he is ready for interrogation by Central Bureau of India in matter of coal scam seems like epideictic acrobatics to hoodwink the people. He has not asked the CBI to include his name for interrogation.

By this time, he should have placed himself for interrogation on records by convincing his fidgeting colleagues that he is, as he has belatedly said, not above the Law. But he has not taken any discernible step in this regard.

He has not yet told the people, if he is not involved with the crime, why did he take so much time to express willingness to be interrogated by the CBI. His motive and modus operandi in causing this delay need be revealed to the public, so that his sincerity can be gauged.

He should, if he is sincere, divulge details of steps, if any, he has taken for fixing responsibility for the missing of relevant files and tell the people clearly, who has stollen or destroyed the files containing notes and orders of concerned functionaries including himself. Mere saying “I am not above law” is of no relevance, because every idiot also knows that nobody is above the Law.

When missing of the files was known and needle of suspicion was pointing at him in public perception, he had asserted that he can’t say where the files had gone, because he was not the custodian of the files.

So, he was aware of missing of the files.

Being aware of the missing of the files, over which people were to look at their Prime Minister askance, in order to keep in tact the glory of the chair of the Prime Minister, he should have immediately taken exemplary punitive action against the last handler of the files, who could have been instantly identified from the ‘File-Movement-Register’ the government maintains. And, he should have ensured that the files are retrieved, if they were not willfully destroyed.

Instead of resorting to epideictic acrobatics that he is ready for interrogation, he should publicly say as to why he has not made his government punish the last handler of the missing files and why he took such huge time to be ready for interrogation. More importantly, he should explain his silence over the swindle worth Rs. 1.86 lakh crores due to his favoring Kumar Mangalam Birla of Hindalco Industries Ltd in coal blocks allocation, as reported by the national auditor. Why should he tell the CBI of this instead of telling the people? Why should there be the necessity of interrogation? Is confession before the people not better than admission on interrogation table?

And why should he be interrogated by the CBI? Is not the CBI dancing to the tune of his government? Is the CBI not denuded of essential credibility during his tenure as the Prime Minister? Who shall believe that the CBI would act independently and impartially in its investigation against the Prime Minister? Situation is so sour, even if the CBI acts independently sans any motive, people will not be convinced that the investigation was proper. And, for this sad situation, who else is responsible than the Prime Minister Dr. Singh?

So, in such circumstances, the Prime Minister should confess every details of his involvement in the scam that has been reported by the CAG to have caused a swindle worth Rs. 1.86 lakh crores; or should accept either of the following two suggestions, in interest of the nation in general and of the dignity of the chair he occupies in particular.

Firstly, he should urge upon the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of India, because the coalgate investigation is being monitored by the Apex court, to create a ‘Special Task Force’ for the purpose, comprising experienced sleuths from crime branches of all the provinces, who, unlike IPS officers, will act sans any fear for the Central Government, and thus, whether or not Dr. Manmohan Singh is the real culprit could be convincingly found out; and secondly, as an alternative, he should appoint a judicial commission of enquiry to help the people know whether or not he himself is the culprit.

The country has a great precedence of the second pattern.

In a special situation created by Jawaharlal Nehru’s government in the centre, Biju Patnaik occupied the chair of Orissa’s Chief Minister on 23 May, 1961 and immediately indulged in looting the State Exchequer for his personal gain and created a gang of co-looters in his ministry that destroyed all administrative norms and ethics in the nasty game of avarice and aggrandizement.

His misrule being absolutely unbearable, the students of Orissa were the first to rise in revolt followed immediately by the masses.

Biju was forced to quit the chair in midterm, though Nehru, whose many weaknesses he knew, had helped him with a face-saving cover called Kamraj Plan.

But the people went on demanding punitive action against Biju so relentlessly that the Central Government was bound to conduct an investigation into his black deeds through the CBI.

The CBI could not proceed properly, as the State Government of which Biju’s protege Biren Mitra was the Chief Minister, did not cooperate.

Yet in its report, it said that, there were many instances of illegalities which only a judicial inquiry under the Commissions of Inquiry Act, 1952 (No. LX of 1952) can determine.

Sadly as the central government was under the grip of the Congress Party, instead of a Judicial Inquiry as recommended by the CBI, a Cabinet Sub-Committee was formed to enquire into the allegations against Biju and the same Sub-Committee made a farce of enquiry and tried to protect him.

The Prime Minister appealed the Parliament to forgive him as he and his protege Biren Mitra were already punished by being made to relinquish their offices.

This had enraged the people of Orissa so much that they punished the Congress Party in the 1967 election for having not punished Biju for his misdeeds.

R.N.Singhdeo became the new Chief Minister of Orissa heading a coalition with Jan Congress founded by Harekrushna Mahtab. In honoring the promise made in election manifesto, he appointed Justice H. R. Khanna of the Delhi High Court as the Judicial Commission of Inquiry against alleged felonies perpetrated during the period from 23 June 1961 to 8 March 1967 by Biju Patnaik and his colleagues including his two successors: Biren Mitra and Sadasiv Tripathy.

This Judicial Commission of Inquiry was appointed on 26 October 1967 under Orissa Government Home Department Notification No.813.

When the State Government was in the process of appointing this Commission of Inquiry, on 27 June 1967, Sadasiv Tripathy along with 24 MLAs and MPs of the Congress Party, had submitted a memorandum to President of India for enquiry into acts of corruption and impropriety alleged against R.N.Singhdeo (then the Chief Minister), P.M.Pradhan (then the Deputy Chief Minister), S.N.Patnaik (then a Minister), Banamali Patnaik (then a Minister), Santanu Kumar Das (then a Minister), N. K. Choudhury (Ex-Chief Minister) and Dr. H.K.Mahtab (Ex-Chief Minister).

On receiving the memorandum from the President, the then Home Minister of India, Sri Chavan sent the same to R.N.Singhdeo for action as he would deem proper.

Singhdeo immediately put the memorandum to administrative examination and as the allegations were prima facie sans any merit, he told Sri Chavan that if he desires, the State Government would go for a judicial examination of the allegations by a sitting judge of a High Court or the Supreme Court of India.

The central Home Minister replied that, as a sitting judge may not be diverted for such an enquiry, the CM may have the enquiry through any retired judge of any High Court or the Supreme Court.

Justice J. R. Mudholkar, a retired judge of the Supreme Court agreed to enquire and find out which of the allegations seemed prima facie correct, so that a regular Judicial Commission of Inquiry could be appointed to enquire into those specific allegations.

Accordingly, a Special Judge post was created in G.O.No. 292-EC on May 3, 1968 and Justice Mudholkar was appointed in the said post as a Special Judge to conduct the fact-finding enquiry, Findings of this commission were held to be genuine by the Orissa High Court in Harekrushna Mahtab vs the Chief Minister of Orissa case on 23 September 1070.

Thus, it is clear that a Chief Minister of Orissa R. N. Singhdeo had enquired into allegations against himself by a special commission headed by a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, Justice J. R. Mudholkar.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh should follow this precedence and subject himself to necessary enquiry by a Judge, instead of CBI, to allay all suspicions about his involvement with the crimes against the country in the scamosphere.

This is, I repeat, more essential for protecting the dignity of the august office he holds.

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