The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt on Advani backfoot

New Delhi, July 23: Pushing the treasury benches on the backfoot in the Lok Sabha, the Opposition today confidently argued that the CBI had dropped conspiracy charges against L.K. Advani and seven others in the Babri Masjid demolition case.

The Centre had fielded Arun Jaitley to counter the Opposition’s accusation that it had influenced the CBI to drop charges in an attempt to shield Advani and the others. But all the law minister could do was state that the CBI did not include the conspiracy offence in the supplementary chargesheet submitted in the Rae Bareli special court on May 31 this year because it did not figure in the original one.

Jaitley said the chargesheet carried forward by CBI from the Lucknow special court to the Rae Bareli court did not contain conspiracy charges against the accused.

But he avoided a reply when Congress chief whip Priya Ranjan Das Munshi and his party colleague Satyabrata Chaturvedi repeatedly asked him why the bureau had chosen to submit the chargesheet filed by the Uttar Pradesh CID in 1993 and not its own subsequent chargesheets which included conspiracy charges against Advani and the others.

The Centre warded off the Opposition’s adjournment motion weapon as the Speaker disallowed several adjournment notices from the Opposition benches. But the two-hour debate in the House over the admissibility of the adjournment motion notices was a moral victory for the Opposition.

Its pointed query to Jaitley asking if it was true that the CBI had consistently argued between 1993 and 2001 for prosecuting Advani and others for conspiring to demolish the mosque remained unanswered.

Not surprisingly, therefore, when Manohar Joshi disallowed the adjournment motion notices, he gave due respect to the Opposition plea. Without questioning the facts the Opposition had presented, Joshi expectedly ruled that an adjournment motion debate which entailed mandatory voting could influence court proceedings at Rae Bareli and hence, should be avoided.

Like Rajya Sabha chairperson Bhairon Singh Shekhawat had done yesterday, Joshi too offered the Opposition a way out. He said he was prepared to allow a discussion that did not involve voting.

The Opposition said it was ready to consider the Speaker’s alternative proposal for a detailed House discussion. Congress spokesman Chaturvedi said his party would consult other Opposition parties on evolving a common course to deal with the matter.

Chaturvedi said the Congress was mulling a breach of privilege notice against Jaitley for misleading the House with his “truncated” facts on the CBI chargesheet.

Kapil Sibal, noted lawyer and Rajya Sabha Congress MP, repeated his party’s charge that the law minister had not placed “all the facts” before Parliament.

Muslim League leader G.M. Banatwalla has already submitted a breach of privilege notice against the minister to the Lok Sabha Speaker.

Centre lashes out

The government today accused the Opposition of leading a politically motivated campaign to malign deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani and his cabinet colleague M.M. Joshi in the Babri Masjid demolition case, says our special correspondent.

Law minister Arun Jaitley said in Parliament the Opposition had “surreptitiously” tried to drag Advani’s name in a case in which the CBI did not implicate him. “I want to assure the House that the Central Bureau of Investigation is an extremely professional agency and that this government has never used it to wrongfully implicate someone or protect its own people,” Jaitley said.

Opposition MPs walked out half way through Jaitley’s speech after accusing him of misleading the House.

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