•  •  Dark Mode

Your Interests & Preferences

I am a...

law firm lawyer
in-house company lawyer
litigation lawyer
law student
aspiring student

Website Look & Feel

 •  •  Dark Mode
Blog Layout

Save preferences

Kapil Sibal gets law ministry as Ashwini Kumar resigns over Coalgate

Telecom minister Kapil Sibal is the fifth law minister in less than five years after Ashwini Kumar resigned from the post on Friday.

Kumar said he resigned to “avoid controversy”, after the Supreme Court (SC) had observed that there was “no justification” for Kumar and the political executive to suggest changes to the Central Bureau of Investigation’s (CBI) status report on the coal scam.

CBI director Ranjit Sinha had on Friday filed an affidavit in the Supreme Court confirming that the report had been “shared” with Kumar and an officer each from the coal ministry and Prime Minister's Office (PMO) “as desired by them”, reported Money Control.

Kumar, a senior advocate and an additional solicitor general from 1991 until 2002, was elected to the Rajya Sabha that year, and re-elected to the upper house in 2004 and 2010, according to IBN Live. In 2006 he became the minister of state in the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion and of Commerce and Industry. He was a Congress spokesperson briefly in 2009, and member and chairman of various parliamentary committees.

In 2011 he became Minister of State in the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs, then in the in the Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Science and Technology and Minister of State in the Ministry of Earth Sciences.

He was given the law ministry from Salman Khursheed in the cabinet reshuffle of October 2012. Kumar was considered close to prime minister Manmohan Singh and this had “sometimes created heartburns among his colleagues in the party”, reported IBN Live.

On 27 April, Singh had told Money Control that there was “no question” of Kumar resigning.

On Saturday Kumar told the media:

I tendered my resignation to put an end to unnecessary controversy in a matter pending before the Supreme Court. My conscience remains clear and I believe I will remain vindicated.

No adverse observation has been made by the court against me. I hope the truth will prevail. When the resignation is given, it does not imply there is any wrongdoing, these are political decisions. It is the prerogative of the Prime Minister to ask his colleague when to resign.

On Wednesday the Supreme Court had observed in its order:

“There is no justifiable reason for the two Joint Secretaries to peruse the draft status reports and recommend changes therein nor was there any justification for the CBI to allow reports to be seen by them.

“The Director, CBI shall henceforth ensure that investigations into allocation of coal blocks is maintained and no access of any nature whatsoever in this regard is provided to any person or authority, including any Minister or the Advocate(s) of CBI, Director of Prosecution and officials/officers of the Government.”

“With the Law Minister resigning, what happens to the Attorney General and PMO official who attended the meeting with him where CBI status report was changed? And can the Prime Minister still maintain that he didn't know anything about what was being done by the Law Minister?” CNN-IBN asked on Saturday.

Kumar joins a list of UPA II ministers who have resigned in the past after controversies related to graft: railway minister Pawan Bansal was also asked to resign on Friday, while A Raja, Dayanidhi Maran, Shashi Tharoor, and Virbhadra Singh had also lost their ministerial posts, reported IANS.

Kumar is the second person in the government’s team to resign due to the coal scam. Additional solicitor general Harin Rawal, who had submitted in the SC on behalf of the government that nobody from the political executive had seen the CBI status report, resigned in April. He alleged that attorney general Vahanvati had made him a “scapegoat”.

Last week over 250 Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) members submitted a petition to SCBA president MN Krishnamani asking for action to be taken against Vahanvati for his alleged interference in the CBI report.

Sibal, who has emerged as the law minister in all this, has recently invited flak and opposition from certain members of parliament over the badly drafted Information Technology (Intermediaries Guidelines) Rules 2011, which have come under criticism for their direct attack on the freedom of expression.

He had also recently taken on the higher judiciary for trying to interfere in the domain of the executive, saying that since courts “want the government to be transparent while passing orders, it would not be wrong to expect courts to give full reasons for their decisions”, reported the Express.

Sibal was a successful counsel before entering politics, according to a detailed Caravan profile.

Click to show 10 comments
at your own risk
By reading the comments you agree that they are the (often anonymous) personal views and opinions of readers, which may be biased and unreliable, and for which Legally India therefore has no liability. If you believe a comment is inappropriate, please click 'Report to LI' below the comment and we will review it as soon as practicable.