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Vajpayee cold water on Judeo debate
- PM makes ‘bland’ statement, discussion winds up mid-way as House empties out

New Delhi, Dec. 10: The much-awaited discussion on the cash-on-camera scandal involving Dilip Singh Judeo turned out to be a drab affair today, with the Prime Minister making a bland statement on the bribery charges and a dissatisfied Opposition demanding a joint parliamentary committee probe.

The debate ended abruptly in the evening, as less than 10 per cent of the members were present in the Lok Sabha. It will continue tomorrow.

The House had taken up a discussion under Rule 193 — which does not entail voting — on the sting operation after Atal Bihari Vajpayee made a statement today. Vajpayee is likely to reply to the debate tomorrow at the end of the discussion.

Allaying the apprehension of Opposition leaders, Vajpayee said there should be “no fear or misgiving” about the independence of the CBI probe into the Judeo scandal and assured the House that the “truth will soon be out and the law will take its own course”.

The former Union minister of state for environment and forests was caught on video allegedly accepting cash from a man who appeared to be acting on behalf of a foreign mining company.

The CBI has sent notices to Judeo and his then assistant private secretary, Natwar Rataria, asking them to appear before it, Vajpayee said.

“It has been the policy of my government that all allegations pertaining to corruption should be thoroughly inquired into. Accordingly, the CBI is inquiring into this whole matter and it would be premature to state anything till the inquiry is complete,” the Prime Minister added.

Soon after Vajpayee’s statement, several BJP members wanted to know about the Ajit Jogi tape episode while the Opposition accused the government of following “double standards”.

In the case of the former Chhattisgarh chief minister, who was allegedly trapped on audio tape offering to finance a split in the BJP, the Opposition said the CBI acted so fast that it filed an FIR in three days. But in Judeo’s case, even after three weeks, the main accused had not even been questioned, they added.

The Prime Minister said: “(The) CBI has full functional autonomy and, under the recently enacted Central Vigilance Commission Act, the superintendence of the CBI in relation to offences under the Prevention of Corruption Act has been vested by the government in the CVC.”

The CBI takes the decision whether to make a preliminary inquiry or register a regular case or file a chargesheet, he added, contending that the government “does not interfere in these decisions”.

On the basis of media reports, the CBI had registered a preliminary inquiry on November 18 against Judeo, Rataria and Rahul, purportedly a representative of an Australian mining company, he said.

Initiating a discussion on the Prime Minister’s statement, Ramjilal Suman of the Samajwadi Party charged the government with “eroding” the credibility of the CBI. Terming Vajpayee’s statement as “bland”, he said the Prime Minister had said nothing on why Judeo resigned and on what grounds his resignation was accepted. He said Judeo had first dismissed the charges as cooked-up but later admitted he had accepted the money.

Contending that Vajpayee’s statement “conceals more than it reveals”, P.K. Bansal, of the Congress, lashed out at the government for resorting to “double standards” by adopting different yardsticks in different cases.

He said in Judeo’s case, the CBI was still in the process of completing its preliminary inquiry, whereas in Jogi’s case, an FIR was lodged within a day.

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