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'No Government pressure to reopen case against Advani'

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, DEC. 27. The Union Law Minister, H. R. Bhardwaj, today denied that the Government was exerting pressure on the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to reopen the "Ayodhya demolition case" against the Bharatiya Janata Party president, L. K. Advani.

Talking to mediapersons, Mr. Bhardwaj said that Mr. Advani should be grateful to the CBI for not filing a revision petition against a Rae Bareli court order dropping charges against him. If there had been any pressure from the Government, a revision petition would have been filed in just two days. He said that the "the Government is scrupulously avoiding any interference in politically sensitive cases."

"Apprehensions baseless"

Mr. Bhardwaj said that the former Law Minister, Arun Jaitley's apprehensions were baseless. The revision petition should have been filed during the National Democratic Alliance rule itself, but the CBI did not do so. "We could have differed with the previous government, but we did not. The Government does what it should do and is not over doing it," he said.

On the letter sent by the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to the CBI on December 8, Mr. Bhardwaj said that the PMO was entitled to enquire about the status of pending cases. The letter had only said that the Law Ministry might be asked to examine if there were any legal provisions and grounds for the CBI to file a revision petition against the discharge of Mr. Advani at this stage and examine if there was any negligence on the part of any investigation/prosecuting agency in not filing a revision petition on time.

On the allegations of money being distributed by the Railway Minister, Lalu Prasad, and the Janata Dal (U) leader, George Fernandes, on the eve of the polls, Mr. Bhardwaj said the practice of doling out money on the eve of elections should be stopped. He said that the model code of conduct gave the Election Commission powers to deal with the situation but this should be backed by statutory enactments.

Asked whether the Rashtriya Janata Dal faced the cancellation of its election symbol because of the alleged violation of the model code of conduct, he said that this should not be ordered on the eve of the elections. "There are other punishments provided for electoral offences. But whatever directions are given by the Commission, entrusted with free and fair conduct of polls, should be obeyed by all political parties and leaders."

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