The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Govt to sweeten Natwar pill

New Delhi, Aug. 5: The action-taken report on the Pathak probe is unlikely to recommend action against Natwar Singh or his son Jagat, who have been found guilty of misusing their positions to get oil contracts for acquaintances.

Government sources said their “information” was that the money trail in the oil-for-food scam stopped at the doors of Jagat’s friend Andaleeb Sehgal and Natwar’s relative Aditya Khanna.

Apparently, the probe has not found the former foreign minister or his son guilty of taking money.

The ATR and the Pathak committee report will be placed in both Houses of Parliament on Monday morning.

Although technically an ATR has to be ratified before being tabled in Parliament, sources pointed out that in exceptional cases, it could be the other way round.

The move to place the Pathak findings and the ATR in a “record 72 hours” after the probe report was handed to the government was “purely political”, a source said.

It would serve two purposes. First, it would be a “slap” in the face of the BJP, which had threatened to stall proceedings. Second and more important, Natwar, a Rajya Sabha MP, had indicated he would defend himself on Monday morning. The Congress and the government were worried about what he might say.

Natwar’s dalliances with the CPM, Janata Dal (U) and the Samajwadi Party — over dinner yesterday, he met Amar Singh who has been in constant touch with him for a while — have also ruffled the leadership. ( )

“There were murmurings that Sonia’s loyalists were being done in one after another. Natwar was not just another loyalist, he had a persona of his own and some following among the Jats of Rajasthan,” a source said.

At best, the action that can be taken would be to define the nature of the alleged violations by Sehgal and Khanna — whether the transactions involved the illegal possession, acquisition and transfer of “hawala” money or undisclosed receipts of funds. If it was the former, the Enforcement Directorate would deal with the charges and if the latter, the income-tax department would, sources said.

The Congress’s core committee, including Manmohan Singh, Sonia Gandhi, Pranab Mukherjee, Ahmed Patel, Arjun Singh and A.K. Antony, this evening discussed the Pathak report.

The ATR would be worked out by the Prime Minister and Mukherjee with finance minister P. Chidambaram, sources said.

While Jagat could not be “touched” on the basis of the report, there was a “cloud” on Natwar because of the reported conclusion that the contracts could not have gone to Sehgal and Khanna without his intervention. “But there’s no proof,” a source said.

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