Row over `shielding' corrupt officials

HYDERABAD Nov. 13. The question hour in the Assembly was stalled for nearly an hour on Wednesday over the Government's refusal to specify the date by which it would place the details of corruption cases against the All India Service officers in the State. The question hour ended abruptly as the Speaker called for a short break.

The Revenue Minister, P. Ashok Gajapati Raju, termed the demand of the Congress member, S. Udaya Bhanu, that the House be provided with the details of ABC cases against an Assembly staffer, as "lobbying'', refused to withdraw his observation and repeated it later.

The Leader of the Opposition, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy, demanded an apology from the Minister for his "intemperate remark'' and accused the Government of trying to shield the corrupt IAS and IPS officials with ulterior motives.

The Government should come out clean on the issue by tabling the list of corrupt officers in the House, or else it could be construed that the Government is hand-in-glove with the corrupt officers, Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy argued.

Mr. Ashok Gajapati Raju countered the argument by reiterating that the Government had no intention of shielding anyone and would place the details in the House later. He refused to divulge when it would do so. Moreover, the Government could not provide details of all the cases as they were in various stages of investigation, he said. He expressed apprehensions that some members would lobby for "this official or that'' as one of them was clearly doing so in the case of a dishonest official.

Unrelenting Congress members continued their exchanges with the Treasury benches over the issue, while the Speaker, Pratibha Bharathi, sought to continue the agenda by calling for the next question.

More than a dozen Congress members rushed to the podium and J. C. Diwakar Reddy sat in the well of the House disrupting the proceedings for about 10 minutes.

The Minister for Legislative Affairs, Y. Ramakrushnudu, unsuccessfully tried to intervene seeking to pacify the members pointing out that the precious time of the House was being wasted on the subject, but Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy continued accusing the Government of ignoring the ACB request for prosecution of corrupt officials either to "blackmail them to get its works done or with some other motive.''

His observation that Mr. Raju was behaving more like a "rajah and not like Minister and treating the Opposition members as his subjects'' in dismissing their demand for apology, provoked the Major Irrigation Minister, Kadiyam Srihari, to launch a tirade against Dr. Reddy.

He said the integrity of his colleague could not be questioned or matched, but in the case of Dr. Reddy's one could not say so. Both, Mr.Raju and Dr. Reddy, had entered the Assembly in 1978 but there was a vast difference in the latter's accumulation of assets, Mr. Srihari alleged.

Dr. Rajasekhara Reddy said an inquiry into his wealth and that of Mr. Ashok Gajapati Raju's was welcome, but at the same time, the Chief Minister, N. Chandrababu Naidu's assets must also be probed as he had entered the Assembly around that time, he said.

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