Congress Leader P Chidambaram found himself the object of protests by the party’s legal cell in Kolkata on Wednesday on a case before the High Court in Calcutta where he appeared in his capacity as a barrister.
Questioning Chidambaram for defending Keventers in the West Bengal government’s sale of Metro Dairy public sector shares, pro-Congress lawyer Kaustav Bagchi said: “In West Bengal, thousands of Congress workers have been attacked by the Trinamool Congress. At the same time, we saw a congressional leader running for TMC in this state!…Congress is in this state today because of double standards leaders like you. From today, we will no longer recognize Chidambaram as the leader of Congress.
One of the protesters called him an “agent of Mamata Banerjee”.
The case against the sale was filed in the High Court by West Bengal Congress Leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury. While Chidambaram walked his way through the protest party men to court without comment, this is not the first time Congress has found itself on the wrong foot over briefs taken up by its prominent lawyer leaders.
In 2017, Chidambaram himself had agreed to appear for the government of the Aam Aadmi party, the Congress’s arch rival, in Delhi against the Center in the Supreme Court.
MP for Rajya Sabha and Congress Spokesman Abhishek Singhvi also often makes headlines taking briefs on issues in which party units support the opposing side.
In 2010, Singhvi argued for Megha Distributors in the Kerala High Court against a state government order proposing higher taxes for lottery promoters. Megha Distributors, owned by the controversial Santiago Martin, was the promoter of the Sikkim and Bhutan lotteries in Kerala. The Congress state leadership felt that Singhvi’s decision blunted its fight against the “illegal business” of other Kerala state lotteries and approached the high command. The latter intervened to order that there be no media briefing until he had made a decision.
Singhvi eventually backed out of the case saying, “I respect the feelings of Congress workers in Kerala. I only came to advocate for the Central Lottery Regulation Act.
A year later, he sparked more consternation in the party after appearing in the Supreme Court against the endosulfan ban. Again, Kerala leaders were angry as they demanded a ban on the pesticide, which was linked by some to health troubles in the state. They even demanded that Singhvi be removed from his position as party spokesperson.
In 2018, it was the turn of West Bengal Congress Unity to take umbrage at Singhvi’s appearance for the Trinamool Congress Government in the Supreme Court, during a hearing on the BJP election petition. to the panchayat in the state. This controversy erupted less than two weeks after Singhvi was elected to Rajya Sabha of Bengal with the backing of TMC.
At the time, the Bengal Congress led by its leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was vehemently attacking the TMC government over violence. In fact, the Congress too then demanded the deployment of the central forces in the panchayat elections and had approached the High Court in Calcutta.
Singhvi also appeared for the TMC in the Saradha Bond Fund Scam and the Narada Sting Case, the two cases in which Congress was attacking the TMC government. In 2019, he appeared for former Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar in Saradha scam. Last year he appeared for ministers Firhad Hakim and Subrata Mukherjee, who were arrested in connection with the Narada case.
In 2017, when it became known that the Kejriwal government had approached Chidambaram to appear for him in the Supreme Court in a case to determine the administrative powers of the elected Delhi government vis-à-vis the Lieutenant Governor, among those who Couldn’t resist taking a hit was Ajay Maken, Delhi’s Congress leader. In a tweet, he praised Chidambaram saying, “You have been exonerated by your former critic Arvind Kejriwal and AAP,” and asked if AAP would now “apologize.”
Another senior congressional official and well-known lawyer, Kapil Sibal, found himself at the center of a controversy in 2017 when, appearing for one of the Muslim litigants, he requested the postponement of the hearing before the Ramjanmabhoomi–Babri Masjid conflict case until after July 2019 – presumably seeking a postponement until after the Lok Sabha elections.
The controversy came amid Assembly elections in Gujarat, and the BJP seized on Sibal’s appeal, along with both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP Chairman Amit Shah. “Yesterday in the Supreme Court, Congressman Kapil Sibal argued for the Babri Mosque. He has the right to do so, but is it fair that he says to postpone the hearing to 2019? Now Congress is tying Ram Mandir to the election. They care the least about the nation,” Modi told a rally.
In 2018, it was reported that Sibal, who was the attorney for Iqbal Ansari, the legal heir to the oldest litigant in the case, had withdrawn from the case.
Singhvi declined to comment on the matter.
In the Keventers case, Chowdhury questioned the sale of more than 46% of the shares of Metro Dairy, a state-controlled company, to the private company, saying there was a lack of transparency over the deal and question marks over the price set for the deal. . He also claims that Keventers then sold the shares to another company at a higher price.
Chowdhury said The Indian Express that he does not blame Chidambaram for taking over the business. “There is a difference between politics and the profession. But it becomes difficult to convey this to the ordinary worker,” he said. “They get emotional. They say we fight the battle on the ground, but when one of our senior leaders comes and defends our adversary… how can that be? »
Chowdhury also said that the protest by some members of the congressional legal cell against Chidambaram was neither planned nor premeditated. “It could be an emotional outburst.”
On his PIL in court on the matter, Chowdhury said he would pursue the legal battle. “I think it’s a scam.”