Indian arms scandal probe head quits on bias charges
NEW DELHI: A retired Indian judge investigating an arms scandal that rocked the ruling Hindu nationalist coalition has quit his post after allegations of possible bias, a government official said on Sunday.
He said retired Justice K Venkataswami had submitted his resignation to Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee on Saturday after opposition parties criticised his appointment to head a government financial panel while he continued to investigate last year’s arms scandal.
“He has said that he is resigning from both posts as it had become difficult for him to work after the controversy,” the official, who did not want to be named, told Reuters.
Venkataswami was appointed to investigate the scandal after a news Web site released video tapes showing a string of officials and politicians apparently taking cash from journalists posing as arms dealers.
The scandal led to the resignation of Defence Minister George Fernandes — who has since returned to the cabinet — and the then head of Vajpayeeee’s Bharatiya Janata Party, among others.
The term of the inquiry has been extended several times and was due to end in January, when it was expected to submit its report.
In May this year Venkataswami was appointed chairman of the Authority on Advance Ruling in the Customs and Excise Department.
But opposition parties charged in parliament last week that the appointment had compromised the judge’s position as the head of the arms-scandal inquiry. After accepting the new benefit from the government, he might not investigate its officials impartially, opposition members said.
The judge was not available for comment.
But he said in his resignation letter that had he accepted the second post because he had been nominated by the chief justice of India following a government request for the nomination of a retired judge to the job, the government official said. —Reuters