The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Tejpal trouble for new chief

New Delhi, Jan. 4: Justice S.N. Phukan, chairman of the Assam Human Rights Commission and a retired judge of the Supreme Court, will head the Tehelka inquiry panel probing corruption charges in defence deals.

Tehelka editor Tarun Tejpal, however, made it clear today that the portal will not “participate” in further investigation by the panel.

“We neither have the resources nor the will to continue in the investigation process. We have already given two years to this commission. Whatever we had, we have given to the commission, including the tapes, which is blatant evidence of corruption in defence deals,” Tejpal told reporters.

“Let the new judge inquire into the evidence which have come out so far against politicians and armymen. The commission has already investigated about us,” he added.

On whether he was asked to cooperate in investigations into the financial aspects that have not been examined by the commission so far, Tejpal said: “If First Global, one of the share holders in the news portal, wants to participate, it can, but we will not.”

“The company is facing a financial crunch and most of our staffers have left due to non-payment of salary,” Tejpal said.

After days of groping in the dark to find a replacement for Justice K. Venkataswami, who had resigned from the probe commission, the government zeroed in on Justice Phukan, apparently on the advice of the Attorney-General Soli Sorabjee.

Sorabjee was “consulted” by the government, sources said. The chief justice of India is usually consulted on such appointments as it gives credibility to an inquiry commission.

But Justice G.B. Pattanaik during his tenure as the CJI had declined to recommend any judge, retired or serving, following the controversy that erupted after the resignation of Justice Venkataswami.

Justice Phukan, who will take over as chairman this month, has the option of beginning from where the proceedings were abruptly left or start afresh.

After the Opposition attacked the NDA government for appointing Justice Venkataswami as chairman of advance rulings in customs and central excise, accusing the ruling coalition of aiming to get a “clean chit” in the Tehelka inquiry, Justice Venkataswami resigned on November 23, saying his “integrity” had been questioned.

He quit from both the posts — as chairman of the Tehelka inquiry commission as well as the chairman of advance rulings.

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