Special Correspondent

National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities term extended

It has not yet completed the task and may not be able to submit its report by May 10Ex-post facto approval for a pact signed with Fiji last year on tourism

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Thursday decided to extend by three months the term of the Justice R.S. Pathak Inquiry Authority, which had been set to inquire into the references to certain Indian entities and individuals in the Volcker Committee Report on the scam in the United Nation's oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

The one-man inquiry authority, headed by the former Chief Justice of India, R.S. Pathak, was set up in November last year and was scheduled to give its report by May 10. The term is being extended as the authority has not yet completed the task and may not be able to submit the report by the scheduled date, said the spokesperson of the Government.

The Volcker Committee, which had inquired into the allegations of payment of kickbacks in the implementation of the oil-for-food programme, had made reference to several Indian entities and individuals, including the former External Affairs Minister, Natwar Singh, the Congress, several Indian companies and other individuals in its report.

Chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, the Cabinet also decided to extend by six months the term of the National Commission for Religious and Linguistic Minorities headed by the former Chief Justice of India, Ranganath Mishra. The panel was scheduled to submit its report by the end of this month. It will now have time till October 31 to do so.

Air service pact

The Cabinet also gave its nod for signing an air services agreement with New Zealand, and for a memorandum of understanding on mutual cooperation in the areas of maritime transportation and port development with Panama.

Further, it gave its ex-post facto approval for an agreement signed with Fiji in October last year for cooperation in the field of tourism.

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs also met here on Thursday and approved enhancement in coal production of the Dipka and Gevra opencast projects in Chhattisgarh by five million tonnes a year and 10 million tonnes a year respectively.