Jaswant Singh admits he went wrong in old caseFebruary 24th, 2008 - 4:49 pm ICT by admin
By Ritu Sharma
New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) Five years after he gave the go-ahead to prosecute a senior Enforcement Directorate official on corruption charges, former finance minister Jaswant Singh has admitted he may have erred in permitting the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to put him on trial. Singh, senior Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader, has filed an affidavit in Tis Hazari saying that the premier investigating agency did not provide him all the facts pertaining to the case of Ashok Aggarwal, former deputy Director of the Enforcement Directorate (ED), when his permission was sought in 2002.
Singh, whose portfolio as finance minister included ED, said in the affidavit that he did not go through the entire facts of the case. He said in his affidavit filed on Nov 3, 2007: “No statement of facts, witnesses or the documents relied on in the charge-sheet are ordinarily forwarded to the finance minister.
“What is sent is a draft order, where ’sanctioning’ by the minister is normally a routine acceptance of that draft,” he added.
“If the obligation was to consider more than what was sent, then that has not been done. Therefore, unwittingly prejudice might have been caused and justice miscarried,” Jaswant Singh’s affidavit flatly admitted.
Ashok Aggarwal, an Indian Revenue Service officer of the 1985 batch, had allegedly amassed over Rs.1,500 million by extorting money from leading industrialists by threatening to slap Foreign Exchange Regulation Act (FERA) cases against them.
FERA has since then been replaced by a softer Foreign Exchange Management Act.
Jaswant Singh, as the “sanctioning authority”, had on Nov 26, 2002, permitted the CBI to put Aggarwal on trial.
The case hit the headlines in 1999. Aggarwal was arrested from Saharanpur in Uttar Pradesh Dec 23, 1999, after a nationwide hunt over several months.
The cases against Aggarwal include criminal complaints of wrongful confinement, fabrication of evidence, demand and acceptance of illegal gratification, and forgery.
The premier investigating agency claimed it had unearthed Aggarwal’s assets, which included 20 flats and bungalows in Delhi, at least two commercial office premises in the World Trade Tower, New Delhi, and numerous other properties. These, the CBI said,were disproportionate to his known sources of income.
The former senior official of the ED had moved the Delhi High Court, contending that “the sanction, without application of mind to the entire records and papers of investigation, is a fraud on the law as well and it invalidates the sanction.”
On Oct 3 last year, the Delhi High Court ruled, “prima facie, it appears that the CBI had not sent the complete record to the sanctioning authority as desired by it.”
Following the high court order, Jaswant Singh, who is a Rajya Sabha member, quietly moved an affidavit in November in the Tis Hazari court, taking the fizz out of the CBI’s case.
Former CBI chief Joginder Singh said, “No minister ever reads all the documents related to a case. However, the minister has the authority to call for the records he wants to peruse.”
“Moreover, besides the CBI records, the recommendations of the Central Vigilance Commission are also considered before giving the sanction,” he added.
Aggarwal’s lawyer Ram Jethmalani, however, declined to comment on the turn of affairs.