Won’t go back on JPC demand over Adani issue: Congress

Lok Sabha MP Manickam Tagore writes to Speaker Om Birla, accusing Rajnath Singh of violating rules of the House by making defamatory statements against Rahul Gandhi without evidence

March 22, 2023 09:50 pm | Updated March 23, 2023 02:01 am IST - New Delhi

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh addresses a press conference at AICC Headquarters in New Delhi on March 22, 2023.

Congress general secretary in-charge communications Jairam Ramesh addresses a press conference at AICC Headquarters in New Delhi on March 22, 2023. | Photo Credit: ANI

The demand for a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) to probe the charges against the Adani Group is non-negotiable and cannot be given up even if the BJP drops its demand for an apology over Rahul Gandhi’s remarks in the U.K., the Congress said on Wednesday.

Addressing a press conference to mark 100-plus questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi under the Hum Adani Ke Hain Kaun (HAHK) series, Congress general secretary Jairam Ramesh said efforts are being made to find a middle path where both the Opposition and the government soften their positions.

Mr. Ramesh said the Supreme Court-appointed expert panel lacks jurisdiction to probe all aspects of the Adani-Hindenburg report fallout and it would end up being a “clean-chit panel” for the Modi government.

Mr. Ramesh said the two, demand for JPC and Mr. Gandhi’s apology, are not connected. While the demand for a JPC probe is “non-negotiable”, the Congress leader asserted that it is Mr. Gandhi’s right to be able to respond to the “scurrilous and baseless” charges against him.

Separately, Lok Sabha member Manickam Tagore has written to Speaker Om Birla for a privilege notice against Defence Minister Rajnath Singh for “violating” the rules of procedure and conduct of business in the House by making defamatory comments against Mr. Gandhi.

On March 13, Mr. Singh, who is also the Deputy Leader of Lok Sabha, had accused Mr. Gandhi of insulting and defaming India’s democracy in London by stating that “democracy was under attack”.

Referring to it, Mr. Tagore said neither had Mr. Singh given any source or documentary evidence to back his allegations nor has Mr. Gandhi been given a chance to respond.

Speaking to reporters at AICC headquarters, Mr. Ramesh said Mr. Gandhi had also written to Mr. Birla earlier in which he had pointed out how BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad was allowed to respond to the charges made against him.

“If you want a way out of this impasse, this is only one way out that Mr. Rahul Gandhi is permitted under Rule 357 to make a statement. Ravi Shankar Prasad was allowed to make a statement in 2015 when charges were made against him by then Chief Whip of Congress and Mr. Gandhi has quoted this precedent,” he said.

The Congress communication chief, however, asserted the two things (demand for a JPC and BJP insistence on Mr. Gandhi’s apology) are like “chalk and cheese”. “Their strategy is 3D — distort, defame and divert. They distorted Rahul Gandhi’s remarks, defamed him and now want to divert attention from the Adani issue,” he said.

To a suggestion by Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien that State governments can initiate investigation in their own States, he said, “It is laughable. Those who have given this suggestion, their only intention is to give a clean chit to the government. This is the question at the doorstep of the Prime Minister. How can State governments probe into these issues, it is the responsibility of the Central government.”

As part of the HAHK series, Mr. Ramesh, along with party colleague Amitabh Dubey who is part of the Congress’ research wing, argued that allegations of “brazen stock manipulation” and off-shore money laundering come under the jurisdiction of of the Securities and Exchanges Board of India (SEBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and Serious Frauds Investigation Office (SFIO) among others.

“While we pray that the Supreme Court’s Expert Committee produces a fair and thorough investigation of the ‘Adani Scam’, we note that it lacks jurisdiction over the investigative agencies mentioned above and that its scope does not include examining cronyism and your political interference in governance aimed at enriching your friends,” said Mr. Ramesh.

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