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regular-article-logo Thursday, 20 June 2024

Congress slams Narendra Modi as Interpol withdraws Red Notice against Mehul Choksi

Several businessmen who owe thousands of crores to banks, including Choksi, his nephew Nirav Modi, and Vijay Mallya, fled India during PM Modi’s first tenure as Prime Minister

Sanjay K. Jha New Delhi Published 22.03.23, 03:03 AM
Opposition MPs take their protest to the first floor of Parliament House on Tuesday, hanging on the balcony a banner seeking a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Adani controversy.

Opposition MPs take their protest to the first floor of Parliament House on Tuesday, hanging on the balcony a banner seeking a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) probe into the Adani controversy. PTI picture

The Congress on Tuesday wondered how Narendra Modi would not help his “purana mitr (old friend)” Mehul Choksi when he had shut down Parliament for his “param mitr (best friend)” Gautam Adani, questioning the Prime Minister’s anti-corruption rhetoric against the backdrop of the “sinking” of “thousands of crores”.

The flashpoint was a report that Interpol had withdrawn the “Red Notice” against fugitive diamantaire Choksi, accused of swindling Punjab National Bank out of Rs 7,080 crore before fleeing the country in 2018.

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Congress president Mallikarjun Kharge tweeted: “Unleash ED-CBI on Opposition leaders and provide relief to ‘Hamare Mehul Bhai’ from Interpol. When he can shut down Parliament for his best friend, then how can he refuse to help an old friend whose escape was facilitated five years ago? The ‘na khane dunga’ jumla is unmatched when thousands of crore are sinking.”

Modi had been seen in a video describing Choksi as “Hamare Mehul Bhai” at a programme at the Prime Minister’s residence in 2015.

In another tweet, Kharge said: “Don’t put democracy at stake to save your best friend. JPC baithao, sansad chalao, sachchai samne lao (Constitute a joint parliamentary committee to probe the allegations of fraud against Adani, run Parliament, bring out the truth).”

Rahul Gandhi rubbed the message in with a similar tweet: “Vipaksh ko ED-CBI, Mitr ko rihai (ED-CBI for the Opposition and freedom for friend). Modani model matlab pahle looto, fir bin saza ke chhooto (The Modani model means loot first and then go scot-free).”

Several businessmen who owe thousands of crores to banks, including Choksi, his nephew Nirav Modi, and Vijay Mallya, fled India during Modi’s first tenure as Prime Minister. The Congress had then accused the government of failing to act on multiple complaints against Choksi and Nirav and produced documents to back its claim.

The CBI had earlier sought Interpol’s help to apprehend Choksi. But on a plea by Choksi, Interpol is said to have removed his name from the database of Red Notices. The CBI has now asked Interpol to restore the Red Notice. The Congress linked the Choksi notice controversy to the government’s attitude towards the allegations against the Adanis to bolster its message that Modi is not serious about fighting corruption. The Opposition party asserted again that both Houses were getting adjourned without any business only because Modi wanted to avoid parliamentary scrutiny. The Congress said Parliament would function normally the moment Modi wanted it to.

Congress spokesperson Shaktisinh Gohil said: “The government says a JPC (probe) is not required because a Supreme Court-appointed committee is examining the matter. The 2G case was being heard by the Supreme Court but the Congress-led UPA conceded the BJP’s demand for a JPC probe. We are ready for a debate on a JPC, but ruling party members are disrupting Parliament. Modi had lectured the nation on the waste of public money when we protested in Parliament over the Pegasus (snooping) issue. What’s happening now?”

Questioning the BJP’s rationale for disrupting the Rajya Sabha, Gohil said: “Rule 231 says statements given by Lok Sabha members cannot be discussed in the Rajya Sabha. But ministers and BJP members are creating disturbances. Despite requests by the Rajya Sabha Chairman to listen to the leader of the Opposition, our leader Kharge is not being allowed to speak. And as far as the question of Rahul Gandhi’s apology is concerned, if anybody has to apologise for insulting India, it is Modi. He once said people lamented what sin they had committed to have been born in India.”

Pawan Khera, another Congress spokesperson, said: “Shah and Shahanshah (Amit Shah and Modi) both know Rahul Gandhi will not apologise for this (remarks in London about Indian democracy being in peril). We are amused that those who worked for the British, didn’t take part in the freedom movement and sought mercy from the colonial rulers are giving sermons to us on patriotism. “They should at least understand that criticising the government is not attacking the country. The debate on the diminishing (of) democracy in India is common and (is) happening everywhere. Democracy is weakened by coercive action, not debate.”

Fresh letter

Rahul has written a second letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla, seeking permission to respond to the “scurrilous and defamatory” charges against him by several ministers. “I am seeking this permission under the conventions of parliamentary practice, the constitutionally embedded rules of natural justice and Rule 357 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha. The Rule provides as follows: ‘A member may, with the permission of the Speaker, make a personal explanation although there is no question before the House, but in this case no debatable matter may be brought forward, and no debate shall arise’,” Rahul wrote.

“Members of the ruling regime have made scurrilous and defamatory claims against me both within and outside Parliament. As a result of these allegations, and the rules invoked by these individuals, it is only appropriate that you kindly allow me a right to reply as contained in Rule 357 which allows for ‘personal explanations’. I have taken the liberty of annexing an example where honourable MP (and then minister) Ravi Shankar Prasad invoked the Rule to give an explanation regarding comments made by Jyotiraditya Scindia in relation to him in Parliament.”

Rahul said there were several examples in the Lok Sabha digital library that showed that this right wasn’t restricted to responding to statements made within Parliament but extended to allegations made in the public domain as well.

“Finally, Parliament like any other institution is bound by the Rules of Natural Justice contained in Articles 14 and 21 of our Constitution. They are a guarantee against administrative arbitrariness and ensure that every person has a right to be heard in a cause with which they are concerned. Surely, you would agree that Parliament of all institutions cannot abdicate the responsibility to respect this right when it doesn’t suit the ruling regime,” Rahul wrote.

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