Tushar Mehta denies meeting Suvendu Adhikari in person
One of the abiding mysteries of the modern-day Delhi Durbar has been what lies in store for very important persons who drop in “unannounced” at the ubiquitous bungalows in the capital.
An insight has now been provided by Tushar Mehta, who as solicitor-general is the second-highest law officer in the country.
Mehta said in a statement on Friday: “Sh Suvendu Adhikari did come to my residence cum office yesterday at around 3pm, unannounced. Since I was already in a pre-scheduled meeting in my chamber, my staff requested him to sit in the waiting room of my office and offered him a cup of tea.
“When my meeting was over, my PPS (personal private secretary) informed me about his arrival. I requested my PPS to convey (to) Mr Adhikari my inability to meet him & apologise as he had to wait. Mr Adhikari left without insisting to meet me. Question of my meeting with Mr Adhikari therefore did not arise.”
The statement did not mention whether Adhikari had sipped the tea and commented on its quality — as gentlemen are expected to do in such rarefied environs. Otherwise, the statement was quite elaborate.
Why did Mehta, presumably a busy law officer, take time off to issue such a statement?
One, Adhikari, the BJP legislator from Nandigram and leader of the Opposition in Bengal, is an accused in the Narada payoffs case.
Two, Mehta represents the CBI, the prosecuting agency, in the Narada case that is pending in court.
Three, before reaching Mehta’s residence, Adhikari had spent time with Amit Shah, Union home minister.
As Shah would say, the Trinamul Congress read the “chronology” and acted.
Three Trinamul MPs — Derek O’Brien, Sukhendu Sekhar Roy and Mahua Moitra — wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking the dismissal of solicitor-general Mehta on the ground of his purported “meeting” with Adhikari and alleged a conflict of interest.
It’s against this backdrop that Mehta issued the statement denying any meeting with Adhikari.
But Trinamul is insisting on proof. Trinamul MP and national general secretary Abhishek Banerjee demanded that the solicitor-general make “all CCTV footage public until Mr Adhikari was in his residence” to dismiss the speculation over the “clandestine meeting”.
Moitra, one of the three Trinamul MPs who wrote to Modi, tweeted: “Z category BJP protectee enters high security official residence of Solicitor General of India ‘uninvited’, waits 20 mins over a cup of tea & apparently leaves without a mtng. CCTV footage to back your version, Mr SG?”
The CBI has faced criticism for arresting two Bengal ministers, a Trinamul MLA and a former mayor in the Narada case in the aftermath of the Assembly elections while not acting against Adhikari, who switched loyalties to the BJP before the polls.
The Trinamul MPs said in their letter to the Prime Minister that “Adkhari is accused of various criminal cases of cheating, illegal gratification, and bribery, etc, two such matters are the:
“I) Narada case, being investigated by the CBI and ED where Suvendu Adhikari was seen taking bribes in a sting operation and were publicly circulated by the BJP. Sri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India, is representing the CBI in the Narada case before Supreme Court and High Court.
“II) Saradha Chit Fund Case, being investigated by the CBI and ED where Sudipta Sen, the prime accused, had written multiple letters levying grave allegations against Suvendu Adhikari. Sri Tushar Mehta, learned Solicitor General of India, has advised and appeared for the CBI in the case also.”
The Trinamul MPs’ letter said the alleged “meeting” had “curiously” followed Adhikari’s meeting with home minister Shah earlier in the day.
The solicitor-general is the country’s second-highest law officer after the attorney-general of India. By virtue of their posts, the two law officers not only give legal advice to the central government but, as a convention, also have the first right of audience in any Indian court.
The three Trinamul MPs alleged in their letter to the Prime Minister that the purported meeting between Adhikari and Mehta “not only reeks of impropriety but also raises the questions of integrity and taints the post occupied by the learned Solicitor General”.
The letter said: “Such meeting between an accused in grave offences, with the Solicitor General who is advising such investigating agencies by whom the said accused is being investigated, is in direct conflict of interest with the statutory duties of the learned Solicitor General of India.
“We have, therefore, reasons to believe that such a meeting has been organised to influence the outcome of matters where Suvendu Adhikari is an accused, using the high offices of the learned Solicitor General of India. We state that the act of the learned Solicitor General to provide an opportunity of audience to Suvendu Adikari not only reeks of impropriety but also raises the questions of integrity and taints the post occupied by the learned Solicitor General.
“In order to avoid any doubt in the mind of the public at large, as to the integrity and neutrality of the office of the learned Solicitor General of India, we approach you (the Prime Minister) to initiate necessary steps for removal of Sri Tushar Mehta from the post of the Solicitor General of India.”
The Prime Minister’s Office had not commented in public till Friday evening on the Trinamul leaders’ letter.
On his part, Adhikari told reporters at the Bengal Assembly that he had gone to meet the solicitor-general over “post-poll violence” in the state “but he did not meet me”.