They tried to "intimidate witnesses and hamper investigations"

Taking a tough stand, the Centre on Monday sacked Commonwealth Games Organising Committee chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his close aide Lalit Bhanot for trying to “intimidate witnesses and hamper investigations” being undertaken by the CBI into the multicrore CWG scam.

While Mr. Bhanot has been removed as OC secretary-general, Mr. Kalmadi has been shunted out of the executive board also, three months after the sporting extravaganza ended in the capital. The Central Bureau of Investigation, which has registered three first information reports in the scam, is probing financial irregularities allegedly committed in the run-up to the Games and in award of contracts.

The government has decided to hand over the dual charge of OC chairman and secretary-general to Jarnail Singh, currently working in the Prime Minister's Office, who is also the CEO of the OC. Interestingly, Mr. Singh worked in a senior position in the PMO during the Vajpayee regime.

The Sports and Youth Affairs Ministry is learnt to have sought legal opinion on removing Mr. Kalmadi as chairman of the Indian Olympic Association as well.

The sacking comes in the light of concerns expressed by the CBI and in the interest of impartial and unhindered investigations, said the newly appointed Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Ajay Maken.

The CBI had accused Mr. Kalmadi of creating hurdles to the probe. On December 8 last, it wrote to Cabinet Secretary K.M. Chandrasekhar charging both Mr. Kalmadi and Mr. Bhanot with not cooperating in the probe and with proving a hindrance. Mr. Maken said the CBI had also accused them of trying to influence witnesses. The legal opinion sent by the Attorney-General on January 10 that both of them could be removed was received by the Ministry on January 14. “After taking over the Ministry on January 19, I sought some clarifications from the Attorney-General to plug any loopholes and received the same on January 21. I decided to remove Mr. Kalmadi and Mr. Bhanot in the interest of allowing a free and fair probe.”