Privilege motion against Jaswant rejected
New Delhi, Aug 23: Rajya Sabha Chairman Bhairon Singh Shekhawat today rejected a privilege motion against Leader of the Opposition Jaswant Singh for having placed on record a ''purportedly forged'' communication between two US officials on the issue of mole in the PMO, withholding consent on the issue.
Mr Jaswant Singh had on August one, placed on record a copy of the correspondence between former US Ambassador to India, Harry Barnes, and Senator Thomas Graham about the issue of mole in the PMO which he had mentioned in his book 'A Call to Honour.' However, Mr Barnes on August two denied having anything to do with the letter.
Immediately after the Question Hour ended, the Chairman said he had received from Mr V Narayanasamy (Congress) and other members a notice under Rule 188 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Rajya Sabha to raise the privilege question against Mr Jaswant Singh for having placed on record ''a purportedly forged letter and thereby misleading the House over the issue.'' The notice said Mr Jaswant Singh had placed on record a purportedly forged letter and thus misled the House.
''...I do not consider it to be a fit case to be raised as a matter of breach of privilege. I, therefore, withhold my consent,'' the Chairman observed.
The Chairman observed that in his letter on August 10, offering comments on the notice, Mr Jaswant Singh said he ''stands by his statement in the House on August one'' that the letter was written by Mr Graham to Mr Barnes, that the copy of the letter was given to him and that it was not forged by him. Mr Jaswant Singh had also authenticated copy of the letter for being placed on the Table of the House.
The Chairman said the basis of the notice was merely a newspaper report. The comments offered by Mr Jaswant Singh clearly revealed that the newspaper report was not based on substantiated facts.
''This case, therefore, highlights an important lesson that greater care, caution and prudence must be exercised in such a serious matter when relying on media reports,'' the Chairman added.
He said that in the present case, it emerged that Mr Jaswant Singh made the statement in the House on August one quoting from a letter which he believed to be true and which he had also authenticated as true.
''It cannot, therefore, be said that his statement in the House on August one was wrong or made deliberately to mislead the House.
Accordingly, no breach of privilege arises from his statement. In view of this, I do not consider it to be a fit case to be raised as a matter of breach of privilege. I, therefore, withhold my consent,'' the Chairman added.