The unravelling

UPA has brought the censure of the apex court on itself. It must acknowledge its responsibility

The UPA government's reputation is being battered in a perfect storm of its own making. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court, as expected, took a stern view of the Union law minister and other government officials vetting the CBI's status report on the investigation into coal block allocations this highly unusual oversight was first reported in this paper, and subsequently confirmed by CBI Director Ranjit Sinha to the court. Even more damningly, the court blew a big hole in the government's attempt to pass off its recommended changes to the status report as mere proofreading. The Supreme Court bench says the changes went to the heart of the report. This is crucial. The UPA has so far been resolute in brazening it out, parsing the court's observations to improvise excuses and troubleshoot on a day-to-day basis. It must now pause to consider the juncture to which this brazenness has brought not just the government, but also the delicate relationship between the political executive and the premier investigating agency.

In fact, were the government to glance beyond the immediate repercussions of its defence of the law minister, it would find that the court has, once again, left many exit routes for all concerned to recover institutional equilibrium for the CBI and the posts of the law minister and the law officers. But for that, the UPA needs to see the crisis for what it is, a deeply political one that had to be managed politically, not fought as a legal brief in the public domain. Ashwani Kumar may or may not have had particular beneficiaries in mind while running his blue pencil through the CBI draft though the dynamic of the intervention has to be probed too but excising a line of inquiry in the case reinforces the galling breach of propriety overseen by him as the incumbent Union law minister. Taking moral responsibility, and immediately so, by having him step down was vital for the Congress party, and especially the government, to demonstrate an acceptance of institutional dignity, of the CBI and also of the Union council of ministers.

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