In a bid to put the National Democratic Alliance and its convenor George Fernandes on the defensive, the Centre on Monday decided to scrap the commission inquiring into the Tehelka expose on defence deals.
"The matter will now be probed in detail by the CBI in an independent manner and the government will provide it the tapes used in the sting operation conducted by the Web portal Tehelka," Law Minister H R Bharadwaj said in New Delhi.
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"The Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs has decided not to extend the term of the commission headed by Justice S N Phukan, which expired on October 3," he said, adding that the NDA government had "misdirected" the inquiry as it wanted to "delay" and "shield" Fernandes, the then defence minister.
"We have informed the commission that we are not interested in its continuance as the matter required to be probed by an independent investigating agency," he said.
After getting the tapes from the commission, which will wind up very soon, the government will forward them to the CBI, he said, adding it was for the CBI to decide the course of inquiry.
"We would like the agency to speedily complete the probe," the minister added.
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Hinting at Samata Party leader Jaya Jaitely, Bhardwaj asked how could a private person function from the house of the then defence minister, George Fernandes.
Tehelka was a big event but the then government showed no desire to probe it and the personalities involved therein, he said. "It wanted to delay the probe by raising questions about the veracity of the tapes and the motive of journalists in carrying out the sting operation.
"It wanted to shield the culprits," he said.