PMO allows ED to question Iqbal Singh

Puducherry Lieutenant Governor Iqbal Singh after a meeting at the Ministry of Home Affairs in New Delhi on Monday. Photo: V.V.Krishnan  

Even as the Congress distanced itself from Puducherry Lt. Governor Iqbal Singh, the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) gave permission to the Enforcement Directorate (ED) to interrogate him for his reported links to Hasan Ali Khan, a Pune stud farm owner, alleged to be the country's biggest money launderer and tax evader.

This comes a day after Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram had said the government was working out the modalities to record Mr. Singh's statement. The ED had already sent him a summons after his name cropped up while the former All-India Congress (Tiwari) secretary and current AICC member from Bihar, Amalendu Pande, was being questioned by the directorate in the Hasan Ali Khan case.

In 1997, Mr. Singh, then a Rajya Sabha MP, had recommended expeditious issue of Mr. Khan's passport, as the rules permit MPs and senior government officials to endorse the passport applications of people they know personally and whom they can vouch for.

However, in this case, after the recent controversy broke, Mr. Singh admitted he had recommended that Mr. Khan's passport be expedited on “humanitarian and compassionate grounds,” though he did not know him personally.

In a two-page letter to Mr. Chidambaram, he said he recommended Mr. Khan's case because Mr. Pande had approached him to do so, saying Mr. Khan's brother was ill abroad. He added he did not verify Mr. Khan's credentials. Thereafter, the Patna passport office issued a passport to Mr. Khan on April 10, 1997, following “instructions from the Ministry of External Affairs.”

For the Congress, still lurching from one controversy to the next, the Singh affair is proving to be embarrassing. A senior functionary said that it would have been better had Iqbal Singh resigned after the controversy broke.

On Monday, Congress spokesperson Manish Tewari said: “We, as a political party, don't hold any brief for anyone. The Puducherry Lt. Governor has already explained his position. It is between him and the Government of India.” He added that as Mr. Singh held a constitutional position, the party should not comment on him.

This is not Mr. Iqbal Singh's first brush with controversy: in 2009, when he was AICC secretary in charge of Bihar, there were election-related allegations against him. It was then that he was moved out, and made LG of Puducherry.

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Printable version | Jan 25, 2022 1:43:38 PM |

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