Law minister won't resign: PM Manmohan Singh

NEW DELHI: He and his government may be under fire, but Prime Minister Manmohan Singh today categorically stated that there is no question of Law Minister Ashwani Kumar resigning from the Union Cabinet on the coal blocks allocation issue.

"There is no question of the law minister resigning... the matter is sub judice," the prime minister told reporters on the sidelines of a defence investiture ceremony at Rashtrapati Bhavan here.

Playing down the demand for his own resignation, the prime minister attacked the opposition for disrupting the parliament over the issue and said the world was laughing at India because of this.

"This is not the first 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 the 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."

Parliament was the proper fora for debating all issues, he stressed.

On the Chinese army's incursion into Ladakh, the prime minister said: "We have a plan, we do not want to accentuate the situation."

On Friday, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) director Ranjit Sinha admitted to the Supreme Court that Kumar had asked for a copy of its investigation into the coal blocks allocations before it was submitted to the apex court.


Following the disclosure by the CBI, the BJP demanded the resignations of the law minister and also the prime minister.

Kumar, however insisted that he had done "nothing wrong" and refused to resign. He was quoted by NDTV as saying, "I have done no wrong, the truth will prevail." He added that the copy shared by the CBI was a draft report and not the final report which was submitted to the Supreme Court.

The CBI on Friday told the Supreme Court that it shared its March 8 status report on investigations into coal blocks allocation with Kumar and a senior bureaucrat in the Prime Minister's Office.

But the investigating agency's status report of April 26 has not been shared with anyone, including the political executive, Sinha told the apex court.

The supposedly independent CBI's disclosure could spell more trouble for the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government and could have ramifications for even the prime minister, who held the coal minister's portfolio in UPA-I during the allocation of coal blocks now under scrutiny.

The developments led to a political storm, with the BJP and the Left parties demanding the resignation of Kumar and disrupting parliament over the issue. The issue has given the opposition yet another stick with which to beat the government, already battling a public perception of being corrupt and inept.

The opposition came down heavily on the Congress-led government, accusing it of interfering in the CBI's work, with Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley saying the government has been caught with its "pants down".

The official auditor, the CAG, has found large-scale irregularities in awarding lucrative mining contracts to private companies. The contracts covered over 100 mines across the country.

According to informed sources, Ashwani Kumar's fate hangs in the balance till April 30, when the apex court is expected to pass an observation on Sinha's disclosure. If it criticises the the law minister, he may have to go. (With agency inputs)