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CBI Row: Mallikarjun Kharge Hits Out at Arun Jaitley; Says Dissent Note Was on Flouting Procedure, Not Integrity of Officer

Jaitley had written a blog post titled "Has Mr. Kharge Brought Down the Value of Dissent?"

New Delhi: Criticised by Union minister Arun Jaitley for his “dissent” note on appointment of CBI Director, Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge has written to the BJP leader that the objections raised by him were on flouting of the procedure and not on the integrity of the officer.

In a letter to Jaitley after his blog “Has Mr. Kharge Brought Down the Value of Dissent?”, the Congress leader in Lok Sabha demanded that the government put in public domain the minutes of the meeting of the panel headed by the prime minister on CBI Director’s appointment.

Kharge said he “is pained to say the value of the Prime Minister’s Office has been brought down” by the way the government has conducted itself in the matter of CBI Director’s appointment.

The Congress leader said Jaitley, who is in the US for medical treatment, had himself penned “the strongest dissent note” against CBI and its functioning after which the agency transferred its officers and stopped investigations, an apparent reference to the minister’s remarks on the CBI investigation in the case against former ICICI Bank CEO Chanda Kochhar.

In his two-page letter, Kharge also expressed the hope that the new Director’s “lack of experience” in CBI would not hamper his ability to rebuild institution “this government has destroyed”.

“You ask “Has Mr Kharge brought down the value of dissent”. By asking difficult questions repeatedly, the value of the questions raised doesn’t come down. The fact that you chose to respond from half way across the world indicates something worries the government.

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“Going by the way the government has conducted itself in the matter of appointment of the CBI Director, particularly the way Justice Patnaik’s report was suppressed and courts have been misguided regarding the appointment of the Interim CBI Director, I am pained to say the value of the Prime Minister’s Office has been brought down,” Kharge alleged in his letter.

“My objections were always on the procedure of appointment and never against an officer or his integrity. Once an officer has been appointed to serve in a particular office, I don’t believe we should continue to comment on them and I have not done that at any point in my near 5 decades of public service,” he said in his letter to Jaitley.

Kharge said since neither of the ministers responding on behalf of the prime minister are members of the Selection Committee, they may not be aware of the happenings thereof.

“It would be simpler if the government releases the minutes of the meeting and all relevant details in the public domain so that the people know if the issues raised are of concern or not,” he said.

“In fact, the strongest dissent note against the CBI and its functioning has been penned by you last week in the matter in which bank frauds were being investigated. I commend you for your honesty. The CBI took your note seriously enough to transfer officers and stop investigations. But, dissent notes sent by me to the prime minister do not even get a response from him,” said the Congress leader, a member of the high-powered panel chaired by the prime minister for appointment of CBI Director.

Kharge also spelt out the reasons every time he dissented on appointment or removal of CBI Director, saying they were against the laid rules governing the probe agency and Supreme Court guidelines.

Jaitley on Sunday had accused Kharge of dissenting excessively, saying he has made the appointment of CBI Director look like a political battle which was never envisaged.

He was referring to Kharge writing to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to express his dissent on the appointment of new CBI Director Rishi Kumar Shukla, alleging the officer did not have experience in handling anti-corruption cases and the criterion for selection was diluted in violation of law and Supreme Court judgments.

In the blog, Jaitley said the leader of the largest opposition party in Lok Sabha, Kharge, “dissented once again” in the appointment of the new CBI Director.

“Kharge dissents regularly,” the minister said.

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