By Amba Charan Vashishth
These days Union Home Minister P Chidambaram finds himself cornered from many sides. The latest is his case of ‘conflict of interest’. Till the middle of May 2004 when NDA was ruling and till the Congress-led UPA took over at the Centre and he became the Union Finance Minister, Shri Chidambaram was holding the brief to defend SP Gupta, chairman of Sunair Hotels and others accused of criminal charges for using an NGO, All India Rajiv Krantikari Sangathan and forging letters of MPs to harass his business rival. The NGO wrongly claimed that it had Congress chief Sonia Gandhi as its chief patron.
After Shri Chidambaram became Finance Minister, within two months his erstwhile client, SP Gupta, was quick to petition the then Union Home Ministry in July 2004 requesting for directions to Delhi Government to cancel the criminal cases of cheating etc. pending against him in court.
‘Justice’ seems to have eluded the hotelier who had made, according to P Chidambaram, “more than 50 representations since July 2004 to the Home Ministry requesting for withdrawal of cases against him”.
It is not a routine with ministries to take cognizance of petitions, like the one submitted by Gupta unless, of course, these are recommended by the prosecution agency through the State government or, in the alternative, after seeking State (Delhi) government’s opinion. But Home Minister is silent on the point.
Even otherwise, as per the practice, the matter is first examined threadbare in the Ministry. The opinion of the Law Ministry needs to be sought only on a specific point. Every ministry, including Home, is competent to reject a representation at its own level if it has no merit without needing the advice of the Law Ministry. The latter comes in the picture only if a ministry proposes to take a definite course of action for which it seeks its legal advice. That the Home Ministry sought the advice of the Law Ministry in Gupta’s case clearly means that the Home Ministry found merit in Gupta’s submissions and wanted Law Ministry’s advice to withdraw the case in the circumstances explained by the petitioner and the opinion of Home Ministry. Every ministry receives hundreds such applications each day and if the ministries started seeking Law Ministry’s advice on each and every application, there would be no end.
The PC stand that Gupta’s file “came to him only once on May 4, 2011 when he recommended that the Ministry should not give any direction and may only convey the advice of the ministry of law”. This in itself is self-contradictory. The file to Law Ministry could not have been sent without his consent on the line of action MHA proposed to take, nor could Law Ministry have advised without a specific line of action proposed by MHA.
But it is the reverse that happened. The Law Ministry advised that it would “not be appropriate to interfere in investigation” and with electrifying speed PC’s ministry writes to Delhi Government asking it “to withdraw FIRs” adding that “this has the approval of Union Home Minister”. (It is normal for senior officers to record on a file that “the minister has seen or approved” the matter when ministers give oral orders or approval.) The same day with the same speed of marvelous efficiency Delhi Government directs the Director of Prosecution to withdraw 3 FIRs “in public interest”. After a news blast about this in media the Delhi Government took a U turn and again “in public interest” claims that it has a solid case against Gupta.
It is pertinent to recall the fact that in 2011 the Delhi High Court had rejected Gupta’s requests for cancellation of the FIRs. Through an executive order, the judicial verdict was being sought to be overruled.
It is a classic case of lack of responsibility and accountability in the UPA government led by Dr Manmohan Singh. Here nobody, except perhaps the Almighty, is responsible for all the wrong and corruption that is taking place in the country.