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Oil-for-food scam: Natwar's plea rejected

Source: PTI
Last updated on: July 05, 2007 18:22 IST
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The Delhi High Court on Thursday dismissed petitions of former external affairs minister Natwar Singh and his son Jagat Singh seeking direction to the Enforcement Directorate to provide them all documents relating to Iraq's oil-for-food scam for defending themselves in a case of alleged violation of Foreign Exchange Management Act.

The ED had in September 2006 issued show cause notices to them and four others for alleged violation of FEMA in the scam.

This came close on the heels of findings of the Justice R S Pathak Inquiry Authority, which went into allegations of kickbacks to Indian entities mentioned in the United Nations's Volcker committee report.

They had filed the petitions seeking all documents collected by the government on the scam, which could be beneficial to them in putting their case before the ED.

However, the high court declined their plea saying that only those documents, which have been relied upon by ED for taking action against them, could be supplied to them.

"Unfortunately, the law as its stands today, does not permit this court to give a ruling in favour of petitioners," Justice B D Ahmed said, citing Supreme court judgments, while dismissing the petition of Singh and his son.

"In the light of the Supreme Court judgments, I cannot hold otherwise," the judge said while pronouncing the judgment.

"If the truth is known to prosecutor and yet it prosecutes an accused based on the material, which is only a half truth, and seeks the conviction of one who is otherwise innocent, it would be a travesty to justice," the court observed, adding that 'a move towards full disclosure (of documents) would therefore be very welcome in this country.'

Singh was suspended from Congress on August 8, 2006, a day after the Pathak authority report was tabled in Parliament. Soon afterwards, Jagat too was suspended.

The suspended senior Congress leader and his son had approached the court when the government body had refused to provide 83 documents brought by India's special envoy Virender Dayal from the United States on the oil-for-food scam.

The government has only supplied 22 documents to Singh.

They had contended that ED did not rely on the Pathak Inquiry Authority report, which said that Natwar Singh did not derive any contractual benefit from the scam.

After a probe into alleged kick-backs to Indian entities in the oil-for-food scam, which took ED sleuths to Iraq, Jordan, London and the US, the Directorate had served notices to Singh, his son Jagat, family friend Andaleep Sehghal, Aditya Khanna, a kin of Singh, Asad Khan, son of a senior Congress leader and Andaleeb-owned Hamdan Exports Limited.

While the Pathak Authority has not been able to trace any money transactions to either Singh or his son, ED had claimed the money trail allegedly led to Jagat Singh and it got hold of documents from London and Jordan in this connection.

Jagat has always denied that he has received any payment in the deals.

Singh, who was questioned by ED in February 2006 after the agency had received a fresh set of bank documents from Iraq and Jordan in the oil-for-food scam investigated by the UN's Volcker Committee report, has been accused by ED of having misused his position in facilitating Andaleep, his kin Aditya to lift oil from Iraq under the food-for-oil programme.

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