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Scandal quiz for scrubbed Gingee

New Delhi, Sept. 9: A day after Gingee Ramachandran returned to the Union cabinet, the CBI appeared to be getting ready to question the minister tomorrow in the transfer-for-cash scandal.

Sources said Ramachandran had agreed to cooperate in the investigation by meeting the sleuths on Wednesday when the bureau contacted him before his re-induction into the cabinet yesterday.

Ramachandran had resigned as minister of state for finance in May after his personal assistant, R. Perumalswamy, was caught taking a bribe of Rs 4 lakh from Indian Revenue Service officer Anurag Vardhan to arrange his transfer to Mumbai.

The MDMK leader today defended his re-induction, saying “I have been been given a ministership only because I have been absolved”. He was speaking after meeting his party chief Vaiko outside the designated anti-terrorism court in suburban Poonamallee in Tamil Nadu.

He also said it was “one hundred per cent” morally right for him to rejoin the cabinet. Ramachandran is likely to return to Delhi tomorrow to resume office again, this time as minister of state for textiles in Udyog Bhavan.

The CBI is expected to inquire about the style of functioning of Perumalswamy, whom Ramachandran had appointed as his personal assistant. The minister may also be asked about the role a minister of state for finance plays in transfers and postings of revenue officers.

The bureau will use Ramachandran’s statement to close investigations in the case and file a chargesheet in court.

The CBI claims there is no evidence against Ramachandran, though it had earlier said in a city court that the minister’s involvement could not be ruled out in the transfer scandal. “It cannot be ruled out that the minister (Ramachandran) himself may be involved (in the transfer-for-cash scandal),” CBI counsel A.S. Cheema had said in court.

The questioning, if it happens, would be a formality but would nevertheless embarrass the NDA government because it would send the message that Ramachandran was re-inducted before the CBI could complete its investigations.

A similar allegation was levelled against the Centre when George Fernandes returned to the government before the Venkataswamy Commission could complete its inquiry into the Tehelka defence scam.

Contrary to the initial impression, the CBI has not been able to enlarge the ambit of its investigation to include other revenue officers the bureau claimed had peddled influence to bag favourable postings.

The CBI had not treated Perumalswamy’s involvement as an isolated incident of corruption in the finance ministry. This was evident from what Cheema told special judge V.K. Jain on June 2: “Investigation has revealed some kind of racket operating in the matter of transfer of income-tax officials.”

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