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The sensational Jethmalani-Chidambaram letters

Tuesday, January 28, 2014
By Virendra Kapoor

Neither Ram Jethmalani nor P. Chidambaram requires any introduction. One is a former law minister and a sitting member of the Rajya Sabha besides being one of the top-most lawyers of the country. The other is the Finance Minister of India and a leading member of the Supreme Court Bar. The two have exchanged letters in recent weeks. Without vouching for the correctness of  charges and counter-charges revealed in the exchanges, we reproduce here the unedited letters in larger public interest:

Jethmalani opened the round with his letter to Chidambaram on 6th December: ‘I write this not as an advocate to a client’s adversary but as a member of parliament.I have been approached as senior counsel to advise two Delhi advocates on behalf of a client and his friend a prominent politician in opposition. I need not discuss their names. I know them all. The client amongst them is one for whom I have appeared in a court matter.

Jethmalani alleges cover-up by FM
They both want legal and political action. The former invokes action under the criminal justice system. If their statement of case given to me is accurate, it does make a strong prima facie case. However, as a criminal lawyer of experience, I do realize that seemingly open and shut cases have also failed the strict proof beyond doubt.

I will not take it amiss if you ignore this letter and the annexure altogether. I have done my duty. The documents placed before me are enormous. I am shocked to absorb their implications. That should worry you too.

I summarize them for you.

1) S K Srivastva, an honest income tax officer, was investigating tax frauds of NDTV. These frauds are based on ‘step-up coupon’ funds of the value of GBP 300 million that was surreptitiously introduced in the garb of fictitious jama-kharch entries in the name of bogus name-lenders.

2) NDTV has floated 21 bogus subsidiaries all over the world through which illicit black money was laundered by it through dubious means and routes. The main one here is the London subsidiary.

3) The black money in question belongs to you and your son.

4) NDTV has been called upon to disclose the identity of the owner of these illicit monies. They have declined to do so and are ready instead to risk paying tax due on this amount as their concealed income. This is being done to aid you and your son in escaping the consequences of this fraud on the nation.
Alleges benami investment in  TV channel

5)  With the criminal object of suppressing the ongoing investigation you took several steps to immobilize S. K. Srivastva,  the additional  I-T commissioner in charge of this investigation. Inter alia you managed his suspension on the false charge of sexual harassment of two lady officers of 1999 batch in the department, who participated in the same for extraneous considerations and with oblique motives.

These charges were proved false in judicial proceedings. These two ladies did not support the allegations. They refused to be cross-examined and the court (Ld. CAT, Principal Bench, Delhi) was finally informed that the ladies have not complained and no report of any kind about this charge exists which can be produced for inspection which the officer was entitled to and which has been ordered by the honorable court.

You called the superior officer of Srivastava and tried to persuade him to make adverse reports against him but he firmly refused. You had planned his dismissal but you finally yielded to the call of some honest officers who refused to become conspirators.

It is sad that as a result of his humiliation of suspension on false charges of sexual harassment client attempted to overcome his grief and anguish by making some observation about personal lives of two ladies, which though factually correct was a tad in poor taste. On the medical opinion of some doctors, this otherwise intelligent and honest man was adjudged insane  by the High Court, a finding which ultimately could not be sustained in consequence of action by the Medical Council of India. I am not getting into this inhuman handling of Srivastava.

6) The officer Srivastava was actively investigating your part in the money laundering conspiracy was clear from the first 12 pages number 1 to 12 of  F. No. DGIT (V)NZ/ Com/113/06, which contained the allegation of bribery of Rs.5,000 crores against your efforts to cover up and prevent investigation into charges of bribes and illegal gratification.

7) Your entire efforts to stall inquiries and investigations into the charges of bribery against you and into the affairs of NDTV and its subsidiaries in the matter of concealed income (about Rs.5,700 crore) money laundering (about Rs.5,500 crore), tax-evasion (about Rs.3,500 crore) embezzlement of Rs.1,46,82,836 of Government money, etc., by NDTV Ltd and Prannoy Lal Roy, K.V.L. Narayan Rao, Vikramaditya Chandra,  Barkha Dutt, Ajay Mankhotia and others in the process and also to stall investigation into payment of bribe and illegal gratification by NDTV Ltd. to corrupt IRS officers like Sumana Sen (IRS 99005) and Ashima Neb (IRS 99010) for causing and facilitating fraud on public exchequer is stalled.

As explained in detail in the Writ Petition (No CWP No. 7312 of 2013, titled `NDTV Ltd. Versus Dispute Resolution Panel’ ) that the NDTV Ltd had filed as late as November 2013 to prevent the DRP from considering the evidence against NDTV Ltd. and yourself, the NDTV Ltd., when confronted with the testimony of SK Srivastava, who has been tracking the tax frauds of NDTV Ltd. and your involvement with it, has not contested the findings and averments and has chosen to avoid cross-examining him, and by not  contesting and virtually agreeing to pay tax on that and virtually admitted, that you are the real owner of the step up coupon of GBP 300 million laundered by NDTV Ltd. into India through its subsidiaries. The NDTV not only withdrew the writ petition it had filed it was confronted with the testimony of SK Srivastava, it also refused to cross-examine Shri SK Srivastava on his testimony that the GBP 300 million step-up coupon funds in the London subsidiary of NDTV whose ownership the NDTV has steadfastly concealed from the income tax authorities. This clearly points to the fact that the owners of the funds have to be concealed at any cost and you have helped them to conceal and prevented the efforts of SK Srivastava to reveal their identity. There is irrefutable evidence that the files of the government have been fabricated to your knowledge and with your approval to suppress the allegation that you have received bribe of Rs.5,000 crores which has been laundered by NDTV. All this clearly lead to the inference that the laundered monies belong to you.

8) Serious criminal offences are prima facie made out which call for immediate investigation and trials of offenders.

I am sending you the documents on which the above conclusions are based. In your own interest I advise you to carefully scrutinize them. I am only trying to be fair and transparent. Brief note of factual details in enclosed as Annexure to this letter.

Chidambaram rebuts Ram’s charge
In his reply on 19th December, Chidambaram wrote to Jethmalani:
‘I have received your letter dated 6.12. 2013 and the annexures. Having regard to your age and the fact that both of us belong to same fraternity, I decline to take umbrage at the outrageous allegation made in your letter. By the way, I have learned that neither the accuser nor the accusation is new.

You may wish to acquaint yourself with an application made under section 319 of CrPC in  cc No. 1/2011 and the order dated 3/12/2013 passed on the application by the court of the special judge (CBI Court), Patiala House Court, New Delhi. You may also wish to acquaint yourself with the letter Shri P C Shrivastava, Advocate, dated 18.6.2013 addressed to the chairman of the JPC.

Be that as it may, you will be happy to know that I have forwarded your letter dated 6.12.2013 and the annexures to Sumit Bose, Finance Secretary-cum-Revenue Secretary, to cause an inquiry to be made in a time bound manner and to submit the conclusions of the inquiry in a sealed cover directly to the Hon’ble Prime Minister.’

Ram sticks by his position
Jethmalani responded on 29th December:‘I have received your letter of 19th. It does not lessen the strength of the inferences arising from the volume of papers sent to you along with my letter of 06.12.2013. The first application disposed off by order of 03.12.2011 which order was made not on merits but to absence of my client means nothing at all because the same court clarified by its order of 14.12.2012 that nothing has been decided on merits. The reference to the lawyers’ letter of 18.06.2013 is equally redundant and evasive. It was not entertained by the Chairman of the JPC because it had shut down shop.

I am not amused by your inquiry which you have decided to be conducted by your subordinate. I do not wish to comment on his credentials or qualifications. I regret this matter has to end in the courts of the country or perhaps the court of the sovereign people of India.’

Gurumurthy enters the fray
Meanwhile, Prannoy Roy and well-known chartered accountant S. Gurumurthy too have exchanged notes on the above matter. In his reply to Gurumurthy, Roy denied that NDTV Ltd had done any wrong, a claim refuted by Gurumurthy in his rejoinder to Roy.

Of course, the last word in the matter is yet to be heard. We do hope that eventually clarity will emerge from this welter of charges and denials and that there shall be no attempt to gag the media through the use of pressure tactics or extra-constitutional means.

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