Under attack for leakage of the Liberhan Commission report on the Babri Masjid demolition before it was tabled in Parliament, the Union government on Monday decided to convene an emergency meeting of the Cabinet on Tuesday to clear the report and the Action Taken Report (ATR). The intent is to table the report and ATR in Parliament on Tuesday itself.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh – presently in the U.S. – called up Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and asked him to convene a Cabinet meeting to clear the report and the ATR. The decision came after hectic parleys within the government and the Congress with senior Ministers consulting party president Sonia Gandhi.
Earlier in the day, Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram sought to assure both Houses that the report, along with the Action Taken Report (ATR), would be tabled this session. However, this did not placate the Opposition.
Questioning the breach of parliamentary privilege and delay in action on a report that took 17 years to finalise, Samajwadi Party and Left parties joined the Bharatiya Janata Party’s demand for immediate tabling of the report. Maintaining pressure on the government, the BJP forced three successive adjournments of the two Houses before the presiding officers called it a day early afternoon.
In identical statements to the two Houses, Mr. Chidambaram refrained from commenting on “the correctness or otherwise” of the contents of the report in Monday’s Indian Express. Stating that his Ministry had only one copy of the report and no one had spoken to any journalist about it, he said: “It is in safe custody.” In the Rajya Sabha, he further added: “I would be a foolish man to leak [the report] and say that I had not done and embarrass myself.”
Referring to the newspaper report, which states that the former Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, and himself were “indicted” and that the demolition was planned and not spontaneous, Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L. K. Advani said he was proud of his association with the Ayodhya movement but distressed by the demolition of the mosque.
“For grand temple”
Taking umbrage at the use of the word “indictment” against him and Mr. Vajpayee, Mr. Advani said he would continue to work for the construction of a grand temple in Ayodhya. About the demolition, he added that no one expected the mosque would be demolished. Conceding that all present in Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, were either from the BJP, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, he claimed that the leadership of the these organisations tried to stop the demolition.
When several party leaders questioned the delay in tabling the report, Mr Chidambaram said it was voluminous and had to be translated into Hindi. There was only one officer working on it [although] there may be more staff working on the ATR.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said leakage of the report was a serious breach of privilege and dignity of the House.