No question of party not backing Law Minister, said Ambika Soni

The government and the Congress rallied behind Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid a day after he sought to trash charges of misappropriation levelled against him and his wife over the running of the Dr. Zakir Husain Memorial Trust, of which he is chairman. Simultaneously, Mr. Khurshid prepared to file defamation suits against the India Today group here, and in the 17 districts of Uttar Pradesh where camps for distributing equipment to the disabled were held. A case is also likely to be filed in London by “some people [there] who have been hurt” by the sting operation conducted by the media group.

While Union Ministers Ambika Soni and Ghulam Nabi Azad dismissed speculation that Mr. Khurshid was being isolated within the government, Congress spokesperson Sandeep Dikshit ruled out the possibility of his resigning from the Cabinet.

“There is no question of isolation or not backing [Khurshid],” Ms. Soni told journalists shortly after a meeting of the Group of Ministers on Media, stressing: “He has a reputation, which is something to be proud of; he has a legacy, which most of us would like to have. So he himself has decided to take the legal course. When a person is not afraid of anything, he has all the answers to all the charges being made.” Mr. Azad, concurring, said: “There is no question of distancing ourselves. He [Khurshid] has made it clear that there is no wrongdoing.”

At the Congress’ official briefing, Mr. Dikshit rejected the demand for Mr. Khurshid’s resignation, saying he had “effectively countered” the charges levelled against him at the press conference held at his residence on Sunday. He also pointed out that the Uttar Pradesh government had instituted an inquiry, adding that since Mr. Khurshid would be filing defamation suits, the courts would decide on the issue.

Mr. Dikshit said: “The allegations levelled have no facts. Salman Khurshid has put across his views against the allegations very strongly. Those facing the allegations have themselves asked for a probe: this reflects their self-confidence in the matter.”

Media must probe properly: Katju

Meanwhile, Press Council chairman Markandey Katju on Monday asked the former Chief Justice of India and National Broadcasting Standard Association (NBSA), J.S. Verma, to investigate the charges against Mr. Khurshid as also against the India Today group. In a letter to Mr. Verma, Mr. Katju said: “I would request you to hold an enquiry into the matter thoroughly and make your findings public so that whoever is innocent is exonerated and whoever is guilty is exposed.” He later observed that the broadcast media, in its eagerness “to give breaking news, does not do proper investigation before attacking someone’s reputation.”

The Press Council chairman’s letter to Mr. Verma comes in the wake of a request made by some lawyers who suggested that since there were counter versions, “it would be appropriate if the matter could be examined by some person of high stature.”

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