The Union law minister calls press conference, defends his name, presents disabled person who had previously complained of not receiving aid
In a high octane press conference addressed by Union law minister Salman Khurshid at his residence on Sunday 14 October afternoon focused on defending the allegations levied against him for misappropriating funds from the Zakir Hussain Memorial Trust, which is headed by him, to his wife’s trust. A private television channel recently had aired a story alleging that Rs 71.5 lakh granted by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment was not utilised by his trust and allegedly siphoned off by Khurshid instead. The said amount was supposed to be utilised for procuring aids and equipment for the disabled.
The allegations against Khurshid include: first, camps were not organised by the trust in Uttar Pradesh to distribute the said items such as tricycles, crutches, Jaipur foot and hearing aids. Also, what emerged was that a forged affidavit was submitted to the Ministry of Social Welfare and Empowerment by the trust. This affidavit was a prerequisite for getting the approval for the following year’s funding. Louise Khurshid, wife of Salman Khurshid, who is also the Project Director of the trust, had already written to Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav for an inquiry into the forged affidavit issue. The Uttar Pradesh government has ordered a probe into the issue.
The law minister, defending his trust, said that not 17 but 34 camps were held which meant two camps were held at the same place. This is required as in the first camp a doctor’s assessment of the disabled person is done. While in the second camp depending on the assessment, the aid is provided to the disabled person. To back his defence, Khurshid also presented photographs of the camp. To add further credence to his claim, a disabled person — Rangee Mistri, who was shown by the TV channel for not getting an aid — was paraded with the aid at the press conference.
Khurshid provided various sets of documents to clear his side. These included orders and invoices for procurement of aids. Photographic evidence of the camp was also shown. Utilisation certificate of the funds duly certified by chartered accountant was also presented.
When questioned about the fake affidavit, Khurshid said that an inquiry was in progress in Uttar Pradesh, and one must wait till the findings are made public. There were also demand of an independent inquiry to which the law minister added that he was ready for one if the TV channel, which aired the story, be investigated as well.
Activist-turned politician Arvind Kejriwal had also protested and demanded Khurshid’s resignation. Kejriwal said, “Till Khurshid remains the law minister, he can destroy each and every evidence against him. There will be no fair inquiry into it.”
On Kejriwal, Khurshid simply said, ”I don’t need to respond to questions raised on the streets.”