NEW DELHI, India: Continuation of Union Defense Minister, V.P. Singh, remains a matter of intense speculation. According to informed sources, the decision to refer the controversy to a Supreme Court Judge was taken in the face of strong Opposition from Mr. V.P. Singh, who thought that it would be 4 reflection on his performance 4% Finance Minister.

Mr Singh is understood to have asked the Prime Minister to make a statement expressing confidence in him along with the annulment of an enquiry by a Judge.

The Prime Minister was not willing to do so and Mr. Singh has threatened to resign on this issue and make a separate statement in the Parliament.

 The former Finance Minister was, however, persuaded by his senior colleagues in the party not to precipitate the crisis at this juncture. He is learnt to have taken the position that while ‘he will go along with the government’s decision for the present, he will not countenance any further attack on his integrity as was launched by his party men like Dinesh Singh, B:R. Bhagat and Mr. Kumarmanglam on March 31st. Sources say that the strains that affected the relations between the Prime Minister and V.P. Singh still remain. A dramatic development should not be ruled out. The Congress (I) Parliamentary Party is sharply divided on the issue of support to V.P. Singh. With one section still campaigning for his dismissal from the Cabinet, supporters of Prime Minaster have undertaken intense lobbying with the group led by Mr. Arun Nehru with a view to persuading it to tum hostile to Mr. V.P. Singh but they have not succeeded.

According to these sources, there is a touch and go situation in the party which may lead to sening weeks. Meanwhile Mr. V.P. Singh, talking to news reporters ridiculed the talk of secret information being passed on to the Fairfax agencies and its C.1.A. Link. Since when has information on economic offenders become secret, the Defense Minister asked, adding since the said offence taken place in the U.S.A. he had to engage an American firm. I can say these things emphatically because of the truth. Mr. Dinesh Singh, a former External Affairs Minister, in reply to a question had said that he would prefer a probe into the Fairfax issue by a committee of Parliament and not by the judge of the Supreme Court. It is understood that the terms of reference that are being drafted for approval by the political affairs committee of the Cabinet, before the Lok Sabha is officially informed today or later in the week, are expected to cover the legal aspects of the controversy. For instance ‘the opinion of the judge will be sought on whether or not the fullest safeguards in terms of security aspects were Kept in mind or examined before the foreign agency was hired.

Lok Sabha debate on March 31st had posed the question whether or not antecedents of Fairfax agency were examined at a responsible level in the Finance Ministry before engaging its services. Another leading aspect on which the judge will be called upon to express his opinion relates to the terms and conditions agreed upon between the government and Fairfax agencies and whether these have transgressed the established norms in such agreements.

For the past few days an intense search has been going on in the finance ministry for the documents connected with the hiring of Fairfax. According to one source many documents were either destroyed or pushed away immediately after transfer of V.P. Singh from finance to defense.

Mr. Brahm Dutt, Minister of State, who responded on behalf of the government in the Lok Sabha to opposition charge was therefore giving information based on the facts available to him. These sources says that these facts were inadequate and created an impression that parliament was not being given full information.

Article extracted from this publication >>  April 10, 1987