Eminent lawyer Harish Salve got married in London on Sunday, which is a personal matter.
But the event had spilled into the public domain by Monday morning because of two factors.
One, the presence of Lalit Modi, who raised a toast to the newlyweds at a private party, and Moin Qureshi.
Two, Salve, a former solicitor-general, has just been appointed a member of the high-level committee to “make recommendations for holding simultaneous elections in the country”. The committee is headed by former President Ram Nath Kovind.
Lalit, the fallen IPL poster boy, faces allegations of financial irregularities. Now based in the UK, Lalit says he is not a fugitive, insisting that he has not been convicted by any court.
Lalit was one of the three Modis named by Rahul Gandhi before he made the surname remark during the 2019 election campaign that paved the way for the Congress MP’s disqualification. The membership was later restored. In March, Lalit had vowed to take Rahul to court in the UK. It is not clear if he has pursued the threat since then.
Moin is a meat exporter who has been linked to the exit of at least two CBI directors. The exporter is also accused of financial transgressions that include tax evasion and money laundering — charges that tend to spur the Narendra Modi government to action, especially if Opposition figures are associated with any of the accused.
Several social media users wondered if it was ethical for a member of as important a committee as the one-nation-one-election panel to rub shoulders with those facing charges of wrongdoing.
Asked by The Telegraph, Salve rubbished the criticism on social media about the presence of Lalit and Moin.
Contrary to general perception, Salve said, Moin Qureshi and Lalit Modi can by no stretch of imagination be dubbed as fugitives.
“It’s... nonsense! Neither of them are fugitives…. Such nonsense. Moin Qureshi lives in India. Lalit Modi is not a fugitive. I appear for him in the Supreme Court and I am open about my friendship with him. Qureshi lives in India and has been allowed to travel and he visits the UK frequently. This (the insinuation) is jealousy and nonsense,” Salve told this newspaper.
Salve knows his law but politically, the BJP will find the controversy unpalatable.
In 2013, the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) had slapped a life ban on Lalit, the first commissioner of the Indian Premier League (IPL), after finding him guilty of misconduct and indiscipline.
“He shall forfeit all his rights and privileges as administrator. He shall not in future be entitled to hold any position or office, or be admitted in any committee or any member or associate member of the board,” the BCCI had said.
In 2013, the Congress-led UPA was in power but the BCCI disciplinary committee had Arun Jaitley, the late BJP stalwart, as its member.
The disciplinary committee included Jaitley, who was a prominent member of the cricket bureaucracy having been vice-president of the BCCI and president of the Delhi Cricket Board, and Jyotiraditya Scindia, then with the Congress and now with the BJP and a Union minister. The panel found Lalit guilty of eight charges, including financial irregularities.”
The disciplinary committee forwarded its report to the BCCI after investigating allegations that Modi had rigged bids during the franchise auction in 2010.
In fact, one of the first scandals to hit the Modi government at the Centre was associated with Lalit.
In 2015, it emerged that BJP leader Vasundhara Raje had reportedly endorsed Lalit’s application to stay on in the UK. It was during this controversy that Narendra Modi, till then vocal on all subjects under the sun, uncharacteristically turned taciturn — a tactic he continues to rely on when uncomfortable matters confront him.
A Padma Bhushan recipient in 2015, Salve has successfully argued against the execution of Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav before the International Court of Justice after he was sentenced to death by a Pakistani court for alleged espionage. Salve at that time had charged a nominal fee of Re 1.