Govt. defends Padma Bhushan to Sant Singh Chatwal

The Government today strongly defended its decision to confer the Padma Bhushan award on New York-based non-resident Indian (NRI) hotelier Sant Singh Chatwal, saying he had been discharged by a court in Mumbai and there was nothing adverse on record against him.

Mr Chatwal was among the 43 people chosen by the Government for the prestigious Padma Bhushan on the eve of Republic Day earlier this week.

The decision sparked off a controversy with the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) objecting to the move because of cases launched by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against the hotelier and restaurateur some years ago.

Reacting to these objections, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs also made it clear that the Padma Awards were conferred only after consideration in terms of the guidelines regulating the award and after observance of established and elaborate procedures.

"A ‘due diligence’ exercise is undertaken in respect of each awardee in consultation with appropriate agencies before announcement of the award. No Padma award is conferred except on the recommendation of the Awards Committee constituted for the purpose and after the due diligence has been done," the Ministry said in a statement.

Referring to the allegations against Mr Chatwal, the Ministry clarified that, between 1992 and 1994, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) had registered five cases against him and some bank officials for allegedly conniving with the intention to defraud the Bank of Baroda and Bank of India, both public sector banks.

It said three of these cases were closed by the CBI itself while chargesheets were filed by the CBI in two cases before the court of Special Judge, CBI, Mumbai. It said that, in these two cases also, the court had discharged Mr Chatwal.

"As per available reports, there is nothing adverse on record against Mr Chatwal," the statement said.

The Ministry also said that Mr Chatwal was a tireless advocate of India’s interests in the United States and had been working relentlessly for strengthening bilateral relationships between India and the United States.

It said he was a Trustee of the William J. Clinton Foundation which focuses on critical global issues such as health care, climate change and economic empowerment of the underprivileged in the world community. He is also founder trustee of the American India Foundation and has made frequent trips to India to provide relief to victims of tsunami and AIDS. He is also a prominent leader of the Indian-American community, it said.

The statement said Mr Chatwal had distinguished himself in the hospitality sector and been an active member of the NRI community in the US in securing support for the nuclear deal among the members of the Congress of the United States. He is a recipient of the Rajiv Gandhi Award 2005. He was honoured by the National Jewish Outreach Programme in New York in 2001 and with the "Order of the Khalsa" by the Government of Punjab in 1999, it added.


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