Sept. 2: The commission probing the run-up to the Babri Masjid demolition today issued a non-bailable arrest warrant against Kalyan Singh to force him to appear as witness.
This is the first time an inquiry panel has issued a non-bailable warrant against a high-profile politician, though there have been instances of key witnesses being summoned similarly.
Kalyan, who was Uttar Pradesh chief minister when the mosque was razed, had on July 22 alleged that deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani phoned him from Ayodhya when the Babri Masjid was being demolished and asked him not to resign till the kar sevaks had finished the job.
After Kalyan accused Advani and Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee of plotting the demolition, the Liberhan Commission called him.
But Kalyan refused to appear, contending that this would prejudice his defence in the CBI’s demolition case. He said he would appear only if Vajpayee and Advani were questioned.
A defiant Kalyan today iterated that he would not appear as witness “under any circumstances”. “The commission cannot force me to depose,” he said in Lucknow.
Kalyan had set the same condition earlier, too, but his vehement refusal has strengthened speculation that he would not like to tangle with the BJP-led Centre before the Uttar Pradesh trust vote is over and new-found ally Mulayam Singh Yadav is firmly in the saddle.
Ever since the change of guard, Mulayam Singh has been busy fending off potshots that the BJP had facilitated his coalition’s smooth takeover.
Delhi High Court is to take up on Friday Kalyan’s plea seeking quashing of the Liberhan panel’s summons. If the high court rejects the petition, the panel can direct police to arrest Kalyan and produce him before it on September 23 and 24.
Advani’s counsel pleaded that Kalyan be dropped as witness because he did not want to appear. But Justice Liberhan held that “it is not Singh’s discretion to appear or not to appear”.
A panel constituted under the Commissions of Inquiry Act has powers of a court and the authority to issue a warrant.
Justice Liberhan rejected Kalyan’s argument that he was busy on account of the vote of confidence.
“I find no sufficient cause for his non-appearance especially when no date for vote of confidence is fixed either for September 2 or 3 and it was merely an apprehension of date being fixed for vote of confidence.”
Kalyan said he was waiting for his lawyer to decide on the next course of action. “After taking legal advice, I will seek justice from superior courts.”
Kalyan denied that his refusal to testify before the commission was linked to the BJP’s decision not to oppose the assumption of power by Mulayam Singh.
“It is a canard to suggest that either the BJP or the NDA government at the centre has rendered any help in installing the Mulayam Singh government. He was invited by the governor because, after the fall of the Mayavati government, he could prove that the majority of the MLAs supported him,” the former chief minister said.