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India govt slammed as ‘most corrupt’ since independence

NEW DELHI: India’s opposition called the government the “most corrupt since independence” yesterday as a row over political interference in a police probe escalated in the Supreme Court.
The top court rebuked the nominally independent Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for showing the government a report on its investigation into alleged corruption in coal mine allotments.
Government lawyers had denied in court that the results of the probe into the scandal, which is being monitored by the Supreme Court, were shared with politicians before the judges.
“The very foundation of the investigating process is shaken by political interference,” the Supreme Court said.
The court’s statements brought renewed opposition calls for Premier Manmohan Singh’s resignation and marked the latest in a string of political embarrassments for his scandal-tarnished Congress government.
The CBI, whose report on what the media calls “Coalgate” is still to be made public, has been probing charges by the auditor last August that the government may have given away $ 33 billion in windfall gains to firms to mine coal.
Singh, in addition to being prime minister, was coal minister for much of the period under police scrutiny.
Both Law Minister Ashwani Kumar and officials of Singh’s office were shown the report “at their desire,” the CBI admitted to the Supreme Court last week, adding “changes were made” without revealing them publicly.
“This has been the most corrupt government since independence” of India in 1947, said Sushma Swaraj, leader of the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party, which walked out of parliament in protest yesterday.
While the opposition did not stop passage of the budget Tuesday, she said it would not cooperate in passing any other bills before the session ends on May 10 in a threat to the government’s pro-market reform agenda. Parliament has been virtually paralyzed for the government’s second term in office by uproar over corruption scandals.
Singh’s administration is still reeling from 2010 charges by the auditor that cut-rate allocation of telecom spectrum may have cost the exchequer $ 31 billion. Some 19 people, including a former minister, face trial over that scandal.

Politician acquitted in riots case
Meanwhile, a court in New Delhi yesterday acquitted a ruling party politician of murder in a trial linked to the massacre of Sikhs following the 1984 assassination of then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
The government says nearly 3,000 Sikhs were killed in riots following the shooting of the Congress premier, while human rights activists say the figure was around 4,000.
Judge J.R. Aryan acquitted Sajjan Kumar, who was accused of being one of the ring-leaders, of murder and criminal conspiracy in one of three cases in connection with the riots.

At the time he was an MP belonging to India’s ruling Congress party and he is still a party leader.
The verdict sparked angry scenes at the court in New Delhi where a Sikh demonstrator hurled a shoe in protest at the presiding judge but missed.
“We had expected him to hang and this is a cruel game being played with the Sikhs,” an elderly protester told reporters after the verdict while another demonstrator said he “felt cheated” by the judgment.
The judge found five rioters guilty of the murder and conspiracy charges, lawyers at the court said.
The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) last week told Judge Aryan there was a conspiracy of “terrifying proportions” between the suspects and police during the rioting.
Activists accuse Congress of having turned a blind eye to the killing of Sikhs and allege some city leaders such as Jagdish Tytler and H.K.L. Bhagat — who is now dead — incited mobs.
Gandhi was assassinated by two Sikh policemen to avenge her decision to use military force against Sikh separatists holed up inside the Golden Temple — Sikhism’s holiest shrine in the northern Indian city of Amritsar.
The Sikh protester who threw the shoe at the judge was identified as Karnail Singh by lawyers and was detained by police.
“He hurled the shoe to show his resentment of the judicial system,” lawyer Navkiran Singh, a Sikh, told reporters.
“Karnail Singh says he will not apologize,” the lawyer added as demonstrators tried to force their way into the court.
The case against Kumar was registered in 2005 in connection with one of the attacks that left five people dead during the anti-Sikh riots in the Indian capital.
Kumar, Tytler and others have always denied any wrongdoing.
Earlier this month, an Indian court ordered federal investigators to reopen a case against Tytler, now a Congress party leader, over the riots.
The CBI had earlier cleared Tytler and closed the case but a local judge in New Delhi ruled his alleged role in the riots must be investigated again.
Sikhs make up some two percent of Hindu-majority India’s population of 1.2 billion.