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Jaya plays sleuth, turns spotlight on lawyers

New Delhi, Nov. 26: Former Samata Party president Jaya Jaitly, who figured in the Tehelka tapes showing corruption in defence deals, today alleged that lawyers from the same firm had appeared for the website’s journalists and the Venkataswami Commission that was probing the case.

Jaitly alleged that the cross-examination of the Tehelka scribes was “friendly”. She also claimed that she had played sleuth to find out the “deception”.

Taking umbrage at news reports that the government had sabotaged the commission’s probe, Jaitly said: “The Congress party and the so-called journalists of Tehelka who talk so loosely about impropriety and dishonesty have deceived the entire nation. It is they who have to answer for their subversion of an inquiry and the entire judicial process.”

Suspicious about commission lawyer Siddharth Aggarwal’s “friendly cross-examinations”, Jaitly claimed to have carried out an undercover mission and approached him through e-mail posing as a lawyer for a “Dubai-based client interested in setting up a cancer hospital in Haryana”. Tehelka’s counsel Siddharth Luthra and his firm Luthra and Associates responded to her, she said. Aggarwal was shown as one of the associates in this firm.

This, Jaitly alleged, was concealed from the panel.

“The commission’s counsels were privy to all confidential files related to 14 defence deals and to all deliberations and decisions taken by the chairman,” she said, adding that the fact of Aggarwal belonging to Luthra’s law firm “was concealed from the commission as well as notices before it.”

Luthra, however, dismissed the charge as a “desperate act by a desperate person”. Throughout the commission’s proceedings, “my office, my staff and I, personally, received constant threats”, he said.

He claimed it was known that his sister Geeta Luthra had been Jaitly’s lawyer for the past several years and it had never been an issue during the proceedings.

“I don’t know what she (Jaitly) wants to achieve by resorting to such things,” Luthra said. When he was to cross-examine the Samata leader before the commission, “three members of my family were contacted to put pressure on me”, he added.

However, Jaitly further alleged: “Aggarwal, in breach of all norms of honesty and fairness, cross-examined Tehelka chief Tarun Tejpal and his colleague Aniruddha Bahal when his partner Luthra carried out the examination-in-chief. The preparation of examination-in-chief and cross-examination was carried out in the very same office.”

Jaitly added that on not receiving any response from her side on the hospital case, the law firm got “panicky” and sent three e-mails with virus, which she did not open.

The Samata leader had allegedly taken money for her party from Tehelka’s undercover “Operation Westend” agents.

Today, she said, despite being aware of the “impropriety” in the lawyers’ appearance, she did not make it public as she did not want to “derail the judicial process”. Jaitly added that she apprehended “motives would be attributed” to her charges.

“Moreover, despite the commission not investigating the source of supply and funding for call girls and my repeated requests for forensic examination of the tapes, I had total faith in its fairness,” she said.

“To cover up the damaging admissions Tarun Tejpal and Aniruddha Bahal already made, he (Aggarwal) sought to plug the loopholes in their testimony and in fact, the chairman had to intervene and stop him.”

Calling the “collusion” apparent, Jaitly further alleged that Tehelka’s and the commission’s lawyers functioned “in tandem”.

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