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New Controversy for Essar as Emails Indicate it Had Access to Draft Budget Papers

A fresh controversy has mushroomed for the Essar group as emails have surfaced indicating its employees were privy to draft budget proposals for 2012-13 – documents, which were meant to be kept secret.

The fresh set of emails will be submitted to the Supreme Court, which is hearing a petition that alleged a nexus between politicians, bureaucrats and journalists and sought a court-monitored probe into it. The company is under the court’s scanner in the case.

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In a statement, Essar said the documents cited in the mails were in public domain and it had not “indulged in any illegal or improper act”.

“The emails even if true do not disclose commission of any wrong doing,” the statement read.

In March, the top court issued notices to Centre and the Essar group while hearing a PIL filed by the non-profit Centre for Public interest Litigation, represented by activist lawyer Prashant Bhushan. It will take a call on whether the Essar Group violated Official Secrets Act when it reopens after summer recess in July.

But the timing of the revelations is significant and can help the ruling party blunt the Congress attack that the Narendra Modi government is a “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” — one that’s pro-corporate.

In a recent interview, the Prime Minister had argued that “suit-boot-ki-sarkar” is better than a “suitcase sarkar” – seen as a direct reference to what his party calls crony capitalism under the UPA government.

The Congress is yet to respond to the fresh revelations. But former Information and broadcasting minister Manish Tewari said the matter calls for a “court-monitored probe” and not a “political witch-hunt”.

“All those who sought access to Budget proposals and all those who colluded should be tried under the Official Secrets Act,” Mr Tewari told NDTV.

As for the political leadership, he said, “Ministers are not in charge of vigilance. Every department has a vigilance wing and if at all these information were easily accessible, it is a systemic failure.”


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