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Mystery shrouds Sahara petitioner
Roy: Shukla who'

Lucknow, May 12: Where is Subrata Roy Sahara' Heck no, where is his “well-wisher” Bharat Nath Shukla'

While his lawyer was losing the Case of the Missing Sahara Chief, the mystery man sat at a nearby car park, reading a mystery story.

Shukla, a maroon hat drawn low over his face, might well have been a character out of the John le Carre title in his hand: Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.

The stocky, 5-foot-3 teacher of English was the subject of much curiosity at the courtroom, people speculating on his possible backers and his motives for filing a habeas corpus petition seeking an order to produce the Sahara boss in court.

“Where is your client'” the judge asked Shukla’s counsel H.S. Jain.

Shukla was finally called up to the court, which threw out his petition alleging Subrata Roy was being “illegally detained” by his wife. Shukla has vowed to challenge the verdict in the Supreme Court.

Arun Sinha, representing the Sahara Group in the court (the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court), had filed an affidavit and a letter purportedly signed by Roy himself, stating Shukla’s petition was “a white lie”.

The letter, addressed to Sinha, says: “I do not know B.N. Shukla. The allegations that I have been detained illegally against my wishes and desires by my wife Smt Swapna Roy, my colleague, deputy managing worker .P. Srivastava and deputy managing worker J.B. Roy, who is also my brother, are extremely painful, false and highly defamatory.

“The allegations that the above named persons want to capture the business of Sahara Pariwar and transfer the entire amount of money to any suitable foreign country with an object to misappropriate the public money are totally baseless, concocted, misleading and made with an ulterior motive to defame us.

“At present I am not keeping well and I am under the treatment of doctors who have advised me complete rest.”

Shukla’s counsel challenged the authenticity of the letter, arguing it did not specify where the Sahara chief was now and how the letter had reached Sinha.

“There is wild speculation all around on where (Subrata Roy) Sahara has been kept now and what is his state of health,” Jain said. “I ask from the court a direction to show him through video-conferencing, (from) where he is now undergoing treatment, to clear all doubts.”

Advocate-general Virendra Bhatia, appearing for the state, argued that the petitioner had failed to bring on record any prima facie fact to substantiate his allegation that Roy was being held hostage.

The court did not accept the allegation that the letter was not authentic. On the other hand, it said it was convinced the petitioner had failed to prove he was a well-wisher of Roy, and dismissed the plea.

The court, however, on the plea of Sinha that he was not willing to draw up defamation proceedings against Shukla, refrained from taking any punitive action against him.

Sahara Communication spokesperson Zeeshan Ahmed said: “Saharasri (Roy) is hale and hearty and has been attending to his regular office work.... He arrived here about four days back and has been doing his regular work.”

The spokesperson said Roy has been advised by doctors to change his lifestyle since he has been working for 18-20 hours, causing him to suffer from high blood pressure and its complications.

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