Shri Advani to Shri Somnath: Please release the non-grainy votegate tapes of Rajdeep Sardesai

via BJP Press Release published on July 27, 2008


Shri L.K. Advani, Leader of the Opposition (Lok Sabha) has written the following letter today to Shri Somnath Chatterjee, Speaker of the Lok Sabha, in connection with the whistle-blowing operation by three BJP MPs to expose the “Cash-for-Votes” scandal

New Delhi , 27th July 2008

Shri Somnath Chatterjee
Speaker
Lok Sabha
New Delhi


Subject : Whistle-blowing operation by three BJP Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) — Shri Ashok Argal, Shri Mahavir Baghora and Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste — in the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal that rocked Parliament in the recently concluded special session dedicated to the Confidence Motion moved by the UPA Government


Ref : Petition to you, dated July 25, 2008, by the three BJP MPs complaining against three UPA leaders in the ‘Cash-for-Votes’ scandal

Dear Shri Chatterjee,

I am writing this letter to you in connection with a serious corruption scandal that rocked Parliament last week and the crude attempts to cover it up. The following is a response to your decision to set up a committee to inquire into the above-mentioned complaint made by the three BJP MPs.

The right to information of the public is paramount. It stems from the Constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression, which is indispensable for any vibrant democracy. Indeed, the right to information and freedom of expression supplement and complement each other, and together support a vigilant citizenry and accountable democratic institutions.

It is for this reason that the Right to Information Act has now been made a part of the statute. A principal object of the RTI is to provide a legal tool to the citizens to demand transparency and expose corruption in the functioning of democratic institutions.

Democracies around the world have also come to regard media-assisted whistle-blowing as a right of conscientious citizens. Indeed, it is on the basis of media reports about a whistle-blowing operation that a parliamentary committee set up by your Honourable Self disqualified as many as 11 Members of Parliament in 2005 in what came to be known as the “cash-for-queries” scandal.

You will agree that the “cash-for-votes” scandal is far more serious, murky and dangerous than the “cash-for-queries” scandal. In latter case, the three MPs belonging to my party have claimed in their petition to you that they acted as whistle-blowers to expose the murky horse-trading dealings of the senior functionaries of the constituent parties of the UPA. They have also affirmed that CNN-IBN agreed to work with them in investigating the matter and sent a team that actually recorded almost the entire trail of the bribery operation. The details of the joint operation by them and the CNN-IBN team is attested by the three MPs in their petition to you.

In any such investigation by a media organisation, the investigated material does not become the private property of the investigator. It is held in trust for the public of India and the information its contents must be shared both with the people at large as well as with the whistle-blowers (in this case, the three MPs), without whose permission and cooperation the channel could not have conducted the investigation.

The channel had assured the whistle-blowers that the recorded tape would be telecast “soon”. However, this was not done. In any democracy, it would be the grossest impropriety if the whistle-blowers are let down by the media organization that conducted the investigation.

It is unfortunate that the TV channel is now treating the investigated material as its private property and chosen to impose a mysterious self-censorship on itself.

Soon after our three MPs had displayed in Parliament the currency notes they had received as a token amount from one of the UPA leaders for abstention from the trust vote on July 22, the channel had announced that it was in possession of the tape and had handed it over to the Speaker. However, I learnt later that the tape was actually delivered to your office the following day, after a lapse of over 24 hours. Although the channel has stated that it retains a copy of the tape and reserves the right to telecast at a future date, the long delay between the recording of the tape and its telecast (if and when it happens) would naturally raise grave doubts as to whether the tape is authentic or doctored.

Our suspicion in this regard has become stronger by media reports. A front-page report in today’s Hindustan Times says: “The secret videotapes believed to contain images related to the bribes-for-votes scandal have turned up grainy footage of poor quality picture and audio quality, sources said.” The three MPs have told me that the tapes shown to them immediately after the recording were of excellent quality.

Against this background, I would like to state the following:

1) The display of the currency notes by the three whistle-blower MPs was watched by millions of people across the nation. Therefore, it stands to reason that CNN-IBN’s recording of the whistle-blowing operation must also be seen by the people at large for them to come to a well-informed and fair conclusion. People’s right to information cannot be circumscribed in any manner Hence, we urge you to make the tape public without any further delay.

2) As explained above, the investigation material pertaining to the whistle-operation by our three MPs cannot be treated as the private property of the channel. Hence, we urge you to ask the channel to share the entire unedited tape with the three MPs concerned immediately.

3) There is need to ensure full transparency and fairness of the inquiry. The partisan and collusive manner in which the JPC on the Bofors scam functioned is well known to the people of India. Indeed, you and several opposition leaders at the time had criticized the JPC both for its functioning and its final report. The Nation expects that this is not repeated in this case.

Regards,

Yours sincerely,

L.K. Advani

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