Natwar Singh gives privilege notice against Manmohan
Alleged leak of Justice Pathak report
New Delhi: The former External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, has given a privilege notice in the Rajya Sabha against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the alleged "leak" of the Justice Pathak Inquiry Authority report.
Invoking Rule 188 of the Rules of Procedure, Mr. Natwar Singh raised the issue of privilege because the Pathak report found its way to a number of media outlets before it could be tabled.
Under the rules, the Chairman — Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhwat — will have to make a judgment about the admissibility of the notice. Rule 189 prescribes two conditions: the question shall be restricted to a specific matter of recent occurrence, and the matter requires the intervention of the Council.
The basis of the alleged "breach" is that even though the Pathak Inquiry Authority was not technically constituted under the Commission of Inquiry Act, 1952, the official "notification" did commit that the report would be tabled before Parliament.
The Union Cabinet is scheduled to meet on Monday morning to consider the Pathak report as well as the Action Taken Report, to be tabled in Parliament.
I had no access: counsel
Meanwhile, Raju Ramachandran, senior advocate of the Supreme Court and senior counsel to the Pathak Inquiry Authority, disputed reports that he could be a possible source of the leak.
In a statement, Mr. Ramachandran, Additional Solicitor-General during the National Democratic Alliance Government, said his role ended with the questioning of witnesses and evaluating the evidence; he had no access to the report.
For good measure, Mr. Ramachandran asserted that the "same is the position with respect to my colleague, Sidhhartha Dave ."
Whether or not Mr. Singh's notice gets admitted, the move is being seen as coming close to snapping his 22-year-old ties with the Congress. A number of Opposition parties have conspicuously extended moral and political support to the former Minister, who always took considerable pride in his proximity to the Nehru-Gandhi family.
In his various interviews to the print and electronic media, Mr. Singh has sought to link his reported indictment in the Pathak report to his opposition to the India-U.S. civilian nuclear deal. He has been active in quarterbacking the "sense of the House" resolution move, bringing together the Left, the Bharatiya Janata Party, the Samajwadi Party, and other Opposition groups.
`Merit in notice'
Leaders of the Communist Party of India and the Communist Party of India (Marxist) have said that prima facie, there was merit in Mr. Singh's notice. The former External Affairs Minister also met NDA convener George Fernandes.
Officially, the Congress maintained that it would not take a view on Mr. Singh till the Pathak report was officially available. Senior leaders, however, are baffled with his lack of political discretion.
Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunsi was reported to have told an agency that "if Mr. Singh has done so , it is an act of absolute indiscipline."