Abhishek Singhvi said I want to refresh your memory little bit down memory lane, we can understand Mr. Natwar Singh’s peak and the underlying antagonism which is the subtext of this proposed Book but we ask through you the public domain – what was the alternative with the UPA-I government, with the Congress party in the light of what has been written in the Volcker Report – a purely international body in the light of what has been written by a very-very independent high powered one person authority RS Pathak authority.
So I want to refresh your mind and memory to tell you that when the UPA-I government took and the Congress party took an uncompromising stand – it was a clearly principled stand when Mr. Natwar Singh was asked to resign from the Council of Ministers and of course later from CWC. You remember that we had both in the government and in the party no option but to take serious cognizance of the extremely serious findings of the so-called Volcker committee to investigate the so-called UN Oil for Food programme. India was among the leading democracies that took action on that report and just to remind you further that the Volcker committee report said on 27.10.2005 – a report with no connection with India or the Congress Party or the government that “Shri Natwar Singh’s family were non-contractual (corrupt) beneficiaries of the Oil for Food programmes”. It went on to say that Natwar Singh, his son Jagat Singh and Jagat’s childhood friend AndaleebSehgal were associated with a company called Hamdan Exports which acted as an intermediary for illegal sales of oil to a Swiss firm named Masefield AG. In return for these illegal sales, Masefield paid kickbacks (termed ‘surcharge’) partly to Saddam Hussein’s regime because they were doing illegal oil export and partly to Natwar Singh and others who facilitated these exports. It was alleged that such kickbacks were the way in which further by sharing these kickbacks Mr. Saddam Hussein secured support from politicians around the world like Mr. Natwar Singh to oppose and to lobby against US policies in Iraq and the Middle East. This is not me, it is the Volcker report. Now it did not end there. This is the international level. It is a detailed report. It has got tabled III and this table talks of non-contractual beneficiary in Mr. Natwar Singh named in connection with 4 million barrels of oil allotted to Masefield AG etc.
It went further and in August 2006 i.e. the next year, a former Supreme Judge, a former CJI and a former Judge of the International Court of Justice universally respected man Shri RS Pathak was appointed to what is known as one-man high powered authority or enquiry authority. He wrote a report of 110 pages which has 22 annexure and it was handed over to the Prime Minister of that time. It details how so this is further corroboration by a judicial element a details how Mr. Andaleeb Sehgal a known friend of Mr. Jagat Singh and Mr. Aditya Khanna who is related to Mr. Natwar Singh are supposed to have received financial pay offs by getting oil coupons further based on the recommendation letters of Mr. Natwar Singh. The Pathak report found that Natwar Singh and his son misused their position and in turn they said that these persons Sehgal and Khanna in particular passed the contracts on to Swiss oil company Masefield AG. On these coupons the company drew oil, the number of barrel matches with that of the Volcker. Because the Swiss company drew oil through illegal sources, they paid commission, they paid 5 cents per barrel and the total commission received by Sehgal and Khanna in one transaction was US$ 1,46,000 and even they said that the division was in the ratio of 4:1. Now these are important facts, that are not to be brushed aside, you can understand why in the public interest there was not only one option for the Congress party which incidentally was completely exonerated by the Pathak committee report. It was found to be entirely an individual enterprise and adventure of Mr. Natwar Singh and family. And there was therefore no option but to take the action which was taken.
Shri Singhvi said I also want to spend a couple of minutes with you to point out that it is most unfortunate and we condemn this that the government is playing with the lives of millions of aspirants to civil services by failing to resolve the issue of civil services aspirant this way or that way. We are not on the merits at the moment. The government is not entitled to dither on this. Our problem at the moment is not even the merit of the decision because the government tells in the Rajya Sabha that “we have got the Verma committee report and are deliberating on it. Very soon this issue will be resolved. I request students to exercise restraint and not to do anything improper”. It is all very well to say that we request students to exercise restraint; it is all very well that we will resolve the issue. Exams are fixed; I think you are forgetting that the government only has a recommendatory role to the UPSC. The decider of the whole issue is the UPSC. Either you must tell them they must go ahead with that date or tell them there will be reasonable deferment and it cannot be allowed to drift in this manner and therefore, we condemn this absolute, casual and cavalier attitude of the government of India as reflected in the last few days and today.
INSURANCE BILL ISSUE- On the question whether the Congress party is speaking in two different voices in the matter of insurance Bill in the light of the statement of Shri Chidambaram, Shri Singhvi said there is no confusion and no double standard perhaps except in your mind. Let me make it clear that I have myself from this podium and otherwise said in the public domain that
(1) the Congress party’s draft on 49% expansion has been picked up directly and we are quite flattered – imitation is the best form of flattery
(2) this very 49% provision and I remind you if something which you are not asking, you are not reminding the people is the subject matter of that para of the report of the committee chaired by Shri Yashwant Sinha – this very thing which is now in the Bill of the BJP led NDA government which is opposed in that paragraph in the report for the same clause the same thing. That should give you an idea of the double standard you are accusing us, this is your double standard
(3) we are, I told you, not being cussed at all on principle but we find that in the 60 page Bill there are several changes. I will give you one example and you will realize why the Select Committee is the best via media. There are parties in the House which are opposing it altogether, we are not. Since Yashwant Sinha BJP headed Standing Committee rejected it, a Select Committee is the only way out e.g. the Bill has now added something which was not there 49% FII – the nitty-gritty details are forgotten – FII is an extremely mobile non-loyal constituency – FII is like quick sand, it changes all the time. We are not sure at all and it is not part of our Bill that in the Insurance sector you should have uncertainly and quick approach sand approach of FIIs investing. I am not saying right or wrong I am flagging an issue for you. There are other issues which some parties believe should lead to rejection of the Bill which by the way we are not saying. The best way is since now the BJP is over-ruling its own Standing Committee of its former Foreign Minister and Finance Minister which is real classic double standard, the best thing is to go to a Select Committee.
Shri Singhvi further added I have also supported it yesterday but the nitty-gritty support does not mean that comma, full stop, section x, y or z is all supported, there is no question.
SUPPLEMENTARY Q.- On a related question on holding a joint session, Shri Singhvi said why we should speculate, the government has its right. Under the constitution they are entitled to do; we will cross the bridge when we come to it. All constitutional parliamentary procedures are not only a possibility, they are a full probability. There is no question. Please do not count everything in terms of majorities or minorities. There are several issues on which you may lose. Does it make our opposition invalid, useless, futile and superfluous? Parliament is a place where you put your points of view and leave it to the nation to judge.Tomorrow a law may be passed with the majority which you have, which can change the fundamental nature of the constitution. That does not make the opposition irrelevant. They may do a joint session. We have a problem in passing matters which are done either against principle or without proper consultation but ultimately it is a question of what the government will do, we will cross the bridge, when we come to it. On Monday parliament will decide, the House will decide, House is entitled to vote for the Bill, against the Bill but it can also vote for a Select Committee. It is House’s property now and there is a Rajya Sabha after the Lok Sabha.
ASSOCIATED JOURNAL ISSUE – To another question on Associated Journal Press case, Shri Singhvi said I am glad that you asked the question because you have overturned the whole thing. We did not ask for adjournment. I have made it very clear, we are a responsible party, we do not believe in discussing judicial matters in a light hearted manner, my lips are sealed to except to make one sentence and that is that the Hon’ble Court has issued Notice on petitions filed by us – petitions filed by Congress President, Congress Vice President and others – four petitions are there. A notice will be returned as they say in legal parlance on 5th of August which means that the respondent one of whom is a complainant Dr. Swamy and the other is the central government will come and respond. So there is a notice today and that is the law.
JAYALALITA DEMANDING APOLOGY -On the question Ms. Jayalalitha writing to PM Naendra Modi and demanding an unconditional apology from the Srilankan government against objectionable post against CM and PM Modi on the website of Ministry of Defence of Srilanka, Shri Singhvi said frankly I have not seen the content. I do not know the authenticity; if there is indecency of the kind you are saying, then I think democracy must have a certain discipline and one would support.