PM backs Ashwani Kumar, says no question of minister resigning

FPPM Manmohan Singh with Army Chief Gen Bikram Singh and IAF Marshal Arjan Singh at the defence investiture ceremony in New Delhi Saturday

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh came out firmly in defence of his law minister on Saturday, saying there was "no question" of the minister resigning in the wake of revelations that he had vetted the CBI's status report on the coal blocks allocation case before it was submitted to the Supreme Court.

"There is no question of the law minister resigning. The matter is now in the court and it is sub judice. Therefore it is not proper for me to do anything, but there is no question of the law minister resigning," he told reporters after the defence investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhawan.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha filed an affidavit before the Supreme Court on Friday, confirming that the status report had been "shared" with union Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and an officer each from the coal ministry and Prime Minister's Office "as desired by them".

The Indian Express had first reported in its edition of April 13 that the CBI chief was likely to inform the court that Kumar and the PMO had vetted the report and suggested a number of changes, some of which were incorporated by the CBI. The report triggered an uproar from the opposition and led to continuous disruptions in Parliament.

The PM on Saturday also ruled out resigning himself, as demanded by the BJP, and instead challenged them to a debate on the issue in Parliament.

"This is not the first time in the last nine years... How many times the opposition has demanded my resignation... But I would like to appeal to the opposition that they should let Parliament function. By not allowing Parliament to function, we are making a mockery of our system of democracy. The whole world is laughing at us. Whatever the issues, these can be debated, discussed and decisions arrived at through proper dialogue in Parliament," he said.

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