The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Laloo and Tehelka pots boil

New Delhi, Oct. 1: Scandals have begun to blip again on the political radar with the Supreme Court asking railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav why his bail should not be cancelled and the government casting an eye on the Tehelka issue.

The Supreme Court has sent notices to Laloo Prasad as well as his wife Rabri Devi in cases related to the fodder scam and unaccounted assets.

The notices come on a batch of petitions alleging that the Union railway minister, who was at the centre of the 'tainted ministers' controversy that rocked Parliament recently, has been interfering in the investigation and trial of the cases.

The petitions have been moved by Laloo Prasad's political rivals. However, if the court cancels the bail, the railway minister could be taken into custody as happened in the case of Shibu Soren.

The petitioners have said Laloo Prasad's bail should be cancelled in view of 'new grounds' which include change of key personalities conducting the cases.

The petition said R.K. Tyagi, an income-tax appellate tribunal member who was hearing the cases against the minister and Rabri, was 'curiously' sent on deputation and replaced by a person who 'was on the verge of retirement'.

'In two weeks, the matter was heard and allowed in favour of the assessees and no appeal has been filed against the order,' Lalan's petition said.

Citing another instance, the petition said, a public prosecutor in the fodder case was replaced by a retired police officer who 'has commenced legal practice recently'.

Away from the Supreme Court, a curious turn was added to the Tehelka tape scandal. The Centre submitted before a commission probing the scandal that the question of journalistic ethics of the portal in carrying out the sting operation fell outside the panel's scope of inquiry.

The contention marks a departure from the stand of the NDA government which had questioned the motives of Tehelka by alleging that it used 'unethical' means to lure politicians into the trap.

The Centre today said the commission's scope was limited to establishing whether allegations that bribes were paid in defence deals are true or not. The government also said that allegations of violations of financial laws were not in the commission's ambit.

Several NDA leaders who have made an issue of the 'tainted' ministers are linked to the Tehelka scandal. The term of the commission expires on Sunday. A meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs on extending the tenure deferred a decision.

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