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Cash For Votes

'Don't Distort'

'The Prime Minister never said that a vote washes away crimes'

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'Don't Distort'
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-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53

Short-duration discussion in Rajya Sabha on issues arising out of statement made by Prime Minister on 18th March, 2011 on a newspaper report on payment of Cash-For-Votes

Excerpts from the home minister's response to the leader of opposition's speech:

***

The discussion, Sir, is on the Prime Minister's statement. This is Parliament yet I acknowledge the fact that we cannot forget he is a lawyer and, therefore, try to prove a case that does not exist, produce evidence which should be rejected by the junior-most Magistrate in the country, and most importantly, avoid answering certain inconvenient questions. 

What did the Prime Minister say? The Prime Minister said that in an open vote taken on the floor of the House, Government won the confidence of the Lok Sabha by 275 votes for and 256 votes against. There were allegations of bribery and the Prime Minister said that the allegations of bribery were investigated by a Committee constituted by the 14th Lok Sabha, and then the Prime Minister says -- this is the nub of the issue -- the Committee had concluded there were insufficient evidence to draw any conclusion of bribery.

One can disagree with this conclusion but one cannot call it, as hon. Leader of the Opposition said elsewhere although used different words here, 'the Prime Minister has been economical with the truth'. I heard you said that. For some reasons, you did not repeat it here. Here is a Report. You read portions of the report and then say bribery is proved. I will read many more portions of that report and show to you that the Committee said we are not able to draw any conclusion. You can argue this until all your Members are tired of applauding you; I can argue this side of the case until all my Members are tired of applauding me. We can still continue to disagree. But that doesn't mean that the statement was economical with the truth. We read from the same report. You wish to draw a conclusion; we have drawn a conclusion. Who will decide whether there was bribery or not? And I will come to that in a moment. 

All this furore was created: no case was registered and no investigation is taking place. Why did we not pause to ask some simple questions? I will deal with that, Sir, in a few minutes. But let me first go to the report. I will deal later on with other rhetorical flourishes of my dear friend, hon. Leader of the Opposition. But let us deal with what the report says. The report deals with the evidence. 

Sir, let me make a very humble and very respectful appeal. I said this in a private conversation to the Leader of the Opposition. Our apprehensions have always been that the Opposition will make its opening statement, and, when we reply, we are disrupted. This has happened several times. I appeal to the Leader of the Opposition, please do not allow this practice.  I said this yesterday and I repeat it today also in a very humble and respectful manner. We must be heard fully as we have heard you. We will hear all your Members. You also hear all our Members. If you have a point to make, make it, and, listen to the reply. I have heard Mr. Ahluwalia’s point, and, I will deal with it.  I will deal with it. It is for the Chair to decide, not you... . You raised your point, I will deal with it. 

The Committee said, “Like all Parliamentary Committees, while enquiring the matter under consideration, the Committee has taken ample care to follow the basic principles of jurisprudence and the canons of natural justice". I don’t think, anyone questioned the procedure followed by the Committee, not even the three so-called dissenting Members. They were really not dissenting members. I will deal with that in a moment. No one questioned the procedure followed by the Committee. After following the procedure, the Committee reached conclusions, which are set out from paragraph 74 onwards. And, then, it deals with each of the dramatist personnel, who are allegedly caught on tape, or, in a video, or in a recording, and, in respect of each one of them, the Committee has recorded conclusions.

The hon. Leader of the Opposition read just one part of the Report on page 47 but, I think, he should read many more paragraphs. I am sure, hon. Members are keen to know what the other paragraphs contain. First, the Committee names Mr. Ahmed Patel in paragraph 88 to 93, and, then, the Committee concludes, and, I quote, 

“There is not an iota of evidence either in the tapes or in any of the depositions made by the witnesses, who appeared before the Committee, which may conclusively prove Shri Ahmed Patel’s involvement in the alleged offer of money to the complainants.” This is reiterated in paragraph 141, sub-paragraph3, and, the Committee concludes, “The Committee is, therefore, of the view that there is practically no case against Shri Ahmed Patel, and, his alleged complicity in the episode is based entirely on presumptions and surmises.”

The second person named by the Committee is Shri Rewati Raman Singh, for reasons that the hon. Leader of Opposition knows better, he knows who Shri Rewati Raman Singh is. The reference to Shri Rewati Raman Singh’s role is in paragraphs 94 to 103. In paragraph 101, the Committee says, “taking into consideration the totality of facts and circumstances of the matter, Shri Rewati Raman Singh’s admission that “therequisite numbers were made up” and even if the statements attributed to the Member were to be true, these alone cannot be taken as conclusive evidence of his having offered money to the said three Members to vote in favour of the ‘Confidence Motion’ or abstain from voting in lieu of monetary consideration”. In respect of Shri Rewati Raman Singh, the conclusion is, ‘there is no conclusive evidence that he offered money to vote or to abstain’. Mark, Sir, the words ‘conclusive evidence’, there is no ‘conclusive evidence’.

The third person named by the Committee is Shri Sanjeev Saxena. His role is dealt with in paragraphs 104 to 111. In paragraphs 108 and 111, the Committee says the following: “After taking into account the totality of the facts and circumstances of the case and the basic norms of logic and reasoning, the Committee are constrained to observe that the deposition of Shri Sanjeev Saxena does not sound convincing by any stretch of imagination. Shri Saxena’s deposition appears to be too confusing, incoherent and unclear”. I ask the hon. Leader of Opposition: Will anyone pronounce guilt on the basis of deposition which is too confusing, incoherent and unclear? “There are too many loose ends in Shri Saxena’s testimony; the surrounding circumstances too throw up a suspicious scenario. The Committee after taking stock of the situation in its entirety, are of the considered view that the role and involvement of Shri Sanjeev Saxena in the matter needs to be further investigated. Since the Committee do not have the wherewithal of an investigating agency, it would be in the fitness of things if the matter is inquired into by an investigating agency”. After rejecting his testimony as confusing, incoherent and unclear, yet because of the suspicious circumstances, the Committee say, “Please investigate Mr. Saxena’s role. No definitive conclusion of guilt or otherwise" Then, the fourth person named was Shri Amar Singh. Paragraphs 112 to 123 and the findings are in paragraphs 114, 120 and 123. 

“For want of any such recording of the impugned conversation/talk or any other proof with regard to offer of money, it is not possible to come to any conclusion on the veracity of the allegation or otherwise”. Underline the words, “not possible to come to any conclusion”. “In the instant case, it is not necessary for the Committee to go into the intricacies of the said two documents. The reason being that even if the averments were to be true, going by the cannons of general evidentiary norms, the same cannot be said to lead to any conclusion that Shri Sanjeev Saxena delivered the money to the said three Members as an emissary of or at the instance of Shri Amar Singh”.  

As observed by the Committee, there are several loopholes and gaps in the case under consideration. For instance, the role of Shri Sanjeev Saxena, his activities and whereabouts on the interposing night of 21 and 2 July, 2008 particularly between the period when he left Shri Shahid Siddiqui’s house, went to Ashoka Road and from there to Shri Argal’s house along with Shri Suhail and another person referred to as ‘man in yellow shirt’

And after that “Neither from the tapes furnished by CNN-IBN nor from any material on record has it been possible for the Committee to come to any conclusive finding linking Shri Amar Singh with the delivery of the money to the said two members through Shri Sanjeev Saxena. The Committee are, therefore, of the view that there is no conclusive proof against Shri Amar Singh vis-à-vis the allegations made against him.” Again, no conclusive proof.

The next gentleman named is Shri Suhail Hindustani. And if he continues to be a member of the BJP, I don’t know. As far as Shri Suhail Hindustani isconcerned, the Committee’s finding is given at paragraph 141, sub-paragraph (xvi).

“Shri Suhail Hindustani on his own admission was a volunteer in the 'whistle-blowing operation’ and considering the facts and circumstances of the case he does not appear to be above board vis-a-vis his own manoeuvring in the impugned whistle blowing operation. Doubts do persist with regard to his role, if any, in arranging for money in question. The matter needs to be investigated by investigating agencies.” 

Lastly, Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, who was, once upon a time, a very distinguished member of the inner circle of the BJP leadership. Today, I do not know whether he is in the doghouse or otherwise. And the Committee’s conclusion are as follows:

“As regards Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni, the Committee note that on his own admission he masterminded the impugned whistle blowing operation. He also admitted of being an active votary of the proposal that the money be placed on the Table of the House. The justification put forth by him for conceptualizing the whistle blowing operation have been found to be unconvincing. As facts reveal, Shri Kulkarni facilitated in the giving of bribes to Members.”

Now Sir, the final conclusions are in paragraph 168, the recommendation, and the committee says as follows:

“The Committee after taking into account their findings and conclusions inthe matter (as detailed in paragraph 141 particularly (xiv) to (xvii) relating to the roles of Shri Sanjeev Saxena, Shri Suhail Hindustani and Shri Sudheendra Kulkarni), recommend that this matter may be probed further by an appropriate investigating agency.” Sir, there were dissenting Members. They attached notes of dissent. And what did they say in their notes of dissent? In their notes of dissent, two  Members said that the matter must be further investigated. On the main conclusion of the Committee, that the matter requires further investigation, there is no dissent. The dissent is on who should do the further investigation. I think there is a subtle difference between dissenting on further investigation and agreeing on further investigation and saying who should do the further investigation. Mr. V.K. Malhotra says this. “The Committee recommends to the Speaker, Lok Sabha, to refer to the complaint of so-and-so against Shri Amar Singh and Shri Ahmed Patel to the Chairman, Rajya Sabha, so that their involvement in the episode can be probed by the Ethics Committee of the Rajya Sabha.” Investigation must now be conducted by the Ethics Committee of theRajya Sabha. 

On page 81, the other Member, Mr. Mohd. Salim, says that it was inter alia mentioned that the Committee was handicapped due to non-availability of technical and professional expertise and we are recommending unanimously – this is not a dissent, he is affirming the majority – that this matter be probed further by an appropriate investigating agency. And, then, finally, Mr. Ram Gopal Yadav, a distinguished Member of this House, says that it is our clear view that no investigation by an external agency ought to be ordered. Parliament is fully empowered to deal with any exigency. So, what is the dissent? You are counting heads – four and three. Even if you count heads, four is bigger than three. But, in this case, the three heads nodded in agreement with the four. The only difference is, who should conduct investigation. Mr. Malhotra says, further investigation by the Ethics Committee…… Just a moment…That is the only thing he says. I can’t go better than what he does not say. 

He says, by the Ethics Committee. Mr. Salim says, by an investigating agency. Mr. Ram Gopal Yadav says, by the Parliament itself. All seven have agreed that the matter must be further investigated. What is wrong when the Prime Minister says that the Committee did not reach any final or definitive conclusion? This is an absolutely correct statement. It is the only logical conclusion which can be drawn.

Sir, an FIR has been registered, FIR no.14 dated 27th January 2009 under Section 12 of the Prevention of Corruption Act and Section 120-B of the Indian Penal Code by the Crime Branch Police Station of the Delhi Police. An FIR has been registered. Sir, Mr. Ahluwalia should know. If he does not, he should ask his distinguished neighbour to his right. We are reading the same document.  You draw one conclusion. 

Arun Jaitley: I am sorry. I am not drawing a different conclusion. You are not choosing to read the document.

P. Chidambaram: I have read more paragraphs than you wanted me to read.

Arun Jaitley: I am sorry. Please read the relevant paragraph of Mr. Salimand Mr. Malhotra. Both say that based on the documentary evidence, the Committee has come to a conclusion that Amar Singh indeed was the principal player in the episode. But, you chose not to read it and say that they have not come to a conclusion. 

Sir, the final recommendation is, four Members of the Committee constituting the majority said that the matter should be further investigated. The three so-called dissenting Members said that it must be investigated. One said by the Ethics Committee in a limited way; one said by an appropriate investigating agency. Mr. Salim said that they were unanimously recommending. And the last one, Mr. Yadav, said that no external agency should investigate; Parliament itself can do it.  The point is, this Committee did not reach any definitive conclusion of bribe giving or bribe taking. They said that there is insufficient evidence. No definitive conclusion can be drawn and the matter must be investigated. And, we are investigating the matter. As I said, an FIR has been registered. Legal opinion has been taken from the Director of Prosecution. A case was registered. The money in question was seized. Several journalists of CNN-IBN have been examined. Another member of the CNN-IBN team, a key player, Mr. Siddhartha Gautam, had left India and, therefore, the Delhi Police could not record his statement. But, then, today, there has been a completely unexpected turn of events.  Mr. Siddhartha Gautam has made a statement.  Just a moment.  An unexpected turn of events and I will read what those turn of events are reporting. Further investigation will be done by asking Shri Mahavir Singh Bhagora and Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste to join the investigation. CNN-IBN has also been requested to facilitate recording of statement of Shri Siddhartha Gautam.

Sir, as far as sitting MPs are concerned, we will take steps to request the Speaker, Lok Sabha, to concur on examination of MPs. The CFSL report will also be taken into account; investigation is in progress, and I am told that the investigation will be completed shortly, and based upon what the investigation reveals, a decision will be taken about what further steps should be taken. It is entirely wrong to say that the matter is not being investigated. The matter is being investigated thoroughly, and it will be taken to its logical conclusion, including taking into account revelations that have been made today. The hon. Leader of the Opposition said, “Why do you refer to the election results? The election results wash out crimes?” Answer is ‘no’. We do not need to have a debate on that. Election results do not wash out crimes. If you read the Prime Minister’s statement carefully, you will realise it. The issue is: Did the Government enjoy the trust of the Lok Sabha or not? Will the Government enjoy the confidence of the Lok Sabha or not? You accused us that we were reduced to a minority; we were converting a minority into a majority by dubious means. Revelations and investigations based on those revelations show – I do not know what they will lead to – revelations made today show that we were always in a majority. The BJP was making a desperate attempt to convert the majority into a minority. 

Please read it in the context. Don't distort a statement. The Prime Minister never said that a vote washes away crimes. The Prime Minister was talking about trust. We must enjoy the confidence of the House in the Lok Sabha. We must also enjoy the confidence of the people outside. The question was, "Did we then enjoy the confidence of the Lok Sabha?" The answer was, "Yes, 275 to 256". The question was, "Did we enjoy the confidence of the people?" The answer was, "Yes, we came back with 201 seats and you were reduced to 118 seats." That is the context of the Prime Minister's statement. Certainly, the Prime Minister was not saying that if you win an election, crimes are washed away; if you lose an election, crimes are proved. Wherefrom do you get this distorted, perverted interpretation of a simple statement that is based on trust? We were talking about trust, trust of the House...

The question always was and the question always is, "Does the Government enjoy the confidence of the Lok Sabha? Does the Government enjoy the confidence of the people?" What was proved was, we enjoyed not only the confidence of the Lok Sabha, we enjoyed the confidence of the people. That is what the Prime Minister has said. Finally, Sir, there are revelations today. I can't vouch say for these revelations. I can't say they are right or wrong. But these revelations...

Sir, there are -- you can call them revelations, you can call them accusations, you can call them allegations -- in the public domain, today, allegations that what was done in July, 2008 was not an independent journalistic exercise, but a deliberate exercise... He said that there are allegations. Please sit down. He said that there are allegations. You are also alleging and they are also alleging.

Arun Jaitley:  Sir, I am on a point of order. Sir, the Home Minister has every right to complete his speech. We will cooperate with him on that. All that I am saying is, he is the Home Minister of the country. He has been kind enough to tell us that yes there is a crime committed, an FIR has been registered and an investigation is on.

P. Chidambaram: Allegedly committed.

Arun Jaitley: Okay, allegedly committed and investigation is on. What we are suggesting and he must bear in mind that there is a clear conflict in the two roles that he has adopted today. As the Home Minister of the country, the Delhi Police reports to him. It must unearth the crime. What he is referring to is the cover-up operation...Yes, we know what you are relying on?  You said so... Don’t wear the hat of the cover-upoperation because you head the Home Ministry to whom the Delhi Police is to report. Therefore, there is a clear conflict in your two versions

P. Chidambaram: Sir, I will bear his words of caution in mind. I knowwhat my limits are, what my responsibilities are. But I would like to remind the hon. Leader of the Opposition the famous statement of Lord Denning. I quote: “The Police owes obedience to no man. Its obedience is to the law.”

Arun Jaitley:  I wish it was true in this country... In the UPA – I, it was wholly untrue. In the UPA – II, it has been wholly untrue, and you know it better than me...

P. Chidambaram: I would like to ask: Was it true that the police owe obedience to no man, and their obedience was to the law, during the period when the Leader of the Opposition was the Minister of Law? If it was true at that time, then, it is true now...

Arun Jaitley: I am grateful to you for complimenting us...

P. Chidambaram: Was it true at that time?

Arun Jaitley: I am afraid, I cannot return the same compliments to you.

P. Chidambaram: There are allegations today, and these are only allegations in the public domain that it was not an independent journalistic exercise, but a deliberate operation conducted in collaboration with a political party... Arun Jaitley: We only expect the Home Minister to tell us whether the forensic report has come and whether the video is true. Why it was done is an irrelevant question.

P. Chidambaram: I am only saying, along with all that the Committee has found, along with the further investigation done by the Delhi Police, I am only pointing out, that there are allegations in the public domain that the correspondent was given a telephone number. He called the person on the telephone number. There are allegations that the telephone number turned out to be the number of a prominent political leader. That prominent political leader asked them to call another number. And that gentleman then directed the so-called sting journalist to go to a particular address. There are allegations that when the first so-called sting operation failed, the clock was ticking and the Vote of Confidence was only a few hours away, there was a desperate attempt to find buyers for the three MPs. They wanted to identify – in fact, to use the phrase of the hon. Leader of the Opposition; he said, “The ruling party was identifying targets”...

Arun Jaitley: The news report has to be certified. You are, obviously, relying on it...

P. Chidambaram: That is there in the public domain.

Arun Jaitley: You are demolishing the investigation of your own police. Therefore, you kindly certify it, and place it on the Table of the House... Otherwise, it cannot form a part of the record... By resorting to a false report...

Arun Jaitley: According to the rule, if you want to rely on a newspaper report, you have to authenticate it.

P. Chidambaram: I am not relying on a newspaper. 

Arun Jaitley: He said that today a revelation has come out and, therefore, he goes on to that revelation… 

P. Chidambaram: It is in the public domain.

Arun Jaitley: You have created a cover up. Then, have the courage to support that cover up. 

Sir, the hon. Leader of the Opposition made a strong indictment and charge that the ruling party was identifying targets for being bought. That is what you said. I am saying now, in the public domain today there  are allegations that, contrary to the earlier charge that the ruling part was looking for targets, it is now found that another party was identifying buyers to buy their MPs. And, finally, Sir, there are allegations in the public domain that this was not a sting operation to catch a Government indulging in any malfeasance, this was a deliberate attempt to destabilise a sitting Government through engineering a situation where three MPs will be part of an operation after identifying buyers for that operation. Now, these are allegations in the public domain. What should the police do? What should we do? We can debate allegations.

Those who have made these allegations are also claiming that there are other recorded conversations in their possession. All I am saying most humbly and most respectfully is that while the Police investigates the evidence that they have gathered, while the Police consider the evidence that has been produced by the Committee, I am sure these allegations will also be inquired into to see what the truth is.

The Prime Minister’s Statement categorically says that no one from the Congress party or the Government indulged in any unlawful act during the trust vote in July, 2008. The UPA-I Government always enjoyed the confidence of the people and of the 14th Lok Sabha. The UPA-II Government has been formed in the 15th Lok Sabha and enjoys the confidence of the House and the people of India. That is the essence of our democracy. Do we enjoy the confidence of the people? Do we enjoy the confidence of the Parliament? I say with humility but with utmost confidence that this Government enjoys the total confidence of the people of India and whatever you do, whatever steps you resort to, whatever so-called sting operations you resort to, whatever engineering you resort to, we will continue to enjoy the confidence of the people and we will continue to serve the people irrespective of your opposition.

Arun Jaitley: Sir, the Home Minister has made a detailed statement. Could he tell us if the CD has come to be genuine as per the forensic report?

Sir, maybe I did not complete that sentence because of frequent interruptions. The forensic report on the tape has been received. The forensic report is with the Delhi Police. They are examining the forensic report. I am not physically responsible to the...Sir, I am not the investigating officer. The evidence is not supposed to be sent to me. The evidence is with the police. The police will file a chargesheet before the magistrate. The evidence will go before the magistrate. It would not come to me. This was the practice of the NDA Government that the police will report to the Minister. I denounce that practice.


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