Kapil Sibal arrives for a meeting of the Group of Ministers on corruption in New Delhi on Friday. (PTI)
New Delhi, Jan. 21: Telecom minister Kapil Sibal has come under fire from the Supreme Court and Parliaments public accounts committee for his critical comments on the Comptroller and Auditor Generals report on the 2G spectrum allotments.
The Supreme Court today rebuked Sibal for speaking on a matter that was before the court and asked him to behave with some sense of responsibility.
Public accounts committee (PAC) chairman Murli Manohar Joshi made public a letter he had written to Speaker Meira Kumar, asking her to seek an explanation from Sibal and advise his panel on what it could do to prevent a recurrence of such constitutional impropriety.
The apex court termed Sibals remarks unfortunate and said ministers are supposed to behave with some sense of responsibility. It asked the CBI not to let its probe into the case be influenced by any observations by anybody, anywhere, including in the press or otherwise.
Two weeks ago, Sibal had termed utterly erroneous, baseless and sensational the government auditors estimate that the 2G allotments under his predecessor A. Raja had resulted in a presumptive loss of Rs 1.76 lakh crore.
Joshis January 19 letter claimed that Sibals statements impinged on parliamentary propriety and the need for preserving and respecting the independence of the CAG and the PAC. It noted that while the CAG was established by the Constitution, the PAC was elected by Parliament.
The letter expressed the fear that a situation of confrontation between a Union minister and constitutional authorities or parliamentary committees would impair the functioning of a healthy and vibrant democracy and deepen the growing cynicism in statutory bodies.
Explaining why he wrote the letter, he said: The Speaker alone is empowered to act because the PAC cannot summon a minister.
He stressed that every member of his panel, including those from the Congress, had approved the letter.
The letter said Sibals remarks were loaded with far-reaching implications and consequences, and asked three questions:
Whether Sibal had spoken with the knowledge and consent of the Prime Minister;
Whether a minister holding charge of a ministry the CAG had probed could cast aspersions on the committees report after it was tabled in Parliament; and
Whether it was necessary for the CAG to accept whatever the ministry says or is the CAG expected to give his considered observations based on the material shown to him?
Joshi wrote that if the answer to all three questions was yes, then the investigations — including those by the CBI and the PAC — became totally infructuous.
This will lead people to lose faith in the transparency and accountability of the financial transactions of the government, he wrote.
Asked when the panel would take up the Prime Ministers offer to depose before it on the spectrum controversy, Joshi indicated this might not happen soon. He said that before they decided on Manmohan Singhs offer, the panel members were examining the documents passed on by ministries.
Joshi had asked for the correspondence between the Prime Ministers Office and the telecom department over the last eight years. In end-December, he received documents running into 4,000 pages. After going through these, Joshi said, he might have to seek clarifications from telecom officials.
The courts remarks came after Subramanium Swamy, who had sought the CBI probe, drew its attention to reports of Sibals remarks about the CAG report.
Swamy had earlier claimed Sibals remarks were an attempt to interfere with the investigation and petitioned the court to ask the CBI to carry out its probe in a free and fair manner.
Today, when the petition came up for hearing, Swamy argued that Sibal had contested the CAGs findings at a time the court had asked the CBI to take into account the CAG report and decide whether a case was made out.
He alleged that this public ridiculing of the CAG report was an attempt to obstruct justice.
The court said: The CBI is now functioning under our virtual supervision. We dont think it should be influenced by any observations. It should not.