Threatens indefinite fast if SIT on Manmohan, 14 Ministers is not set up

Dismissing speculation about a rift among its core committee members, Team Anna on Saturday sought an independent Special Investigation Team (SIT) to probe alleged charges of corruption against Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and 14 Ministers in his Cabinet. The charges, they claimed, were documented and part of CAG reports were already under the scrutiny of courts.

Quick to react, the Congress quashed the allegations as “unsubstantiated averments that need not be responded to.” And within hours of the statement by Team Anna, one of those named, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, categorically denied the charge.

Addressing a press conference here, the Team produced a list of six retired judges who could form part of the SIT which should give its findings by July 24, failing which Team Anna members would go on an indefinite hunger strike at Jantar Mantar here from July 25. This decision, they said, had the approval of social activist Anna Hazare, who is currently touring Maharashtra.

The Team has, for the first time, raised a finger directly at the Prime Minister, “under whose watch a major coal allocation scam took place which allowed private firms to make windfall gains,” as, they claimed, “was clear from the facts that are out in the public domain and the report of the CAG.”

“The Prime Minister has a clean image; then for whom was the money collected? Was it for the [Congress] party or for somebody,” asked Team Anna member Arvind Kejriwal. He was accompanied on the dais by core committee members Shanti Bhushan, Kiran Bedi, Prashant Bhushan, Manish Sisodia and Gopal Rai.

With “15 out of 34 members of the Cabinet” facing allegations of one kind or another, “it is obvious that the Lokpal Bill will never be passed,” they said, pointing to the reference of the Bill to the Rajya Sabha Select Committee during the just-concluded Budget session of Parliament.

Besides Dr. Singh, the Ministers against whom Team Anna has demanded a probe include Pranab Mukherjee, P. Chidambaram, Kapil Sibal, Sharad Pawar, Mr. Krishna, Kamal Nath, Praful Patel, Vilasrao Deshmukh, Virbhadra Singh, Salman Khurshid, G.K. Vasan, Farooq Abdullah, M.K. Alagiri and Sushil Kumar Shinde.

They suggested that the government could select three judges to form the SIT from a panel of Justices Sudarshan Reddy, A.K. Ganguly, A.P. Shah, Kuldeep Singh, J.S. Verma and M. N. Venkatachaliah.

In a letter written to the Prime Minister, the Team members also sought fast-track courts to decide corruption charges against members of Parliament.

CBI cases against certain party leaders should also be handed over to the proposed SIT, they added.

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