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Identify caller, Lalu's counsel tells SC judge

July 29, 2005 14:15 IST

Injecting a fresh lease of life to a closed controversy, Railway Minister Lalu Prasad's counsel today demanded that a Supreme Court judge make public the name of the person who had "socially interacted" with him on the issue of transfer of a Patna judge hearing cases against the RJD chief and his wife, Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi.

The demand for disclosure of the name by counsel B B Singh took by surprise Justice S N Variava, heading a Bench also comprising Justice A R Lakshmanan and Justice S H Kapadia, who repeatedly said it was a closed chapter.

The Bench was to fix a date for hearing on the issue of maintainability of a PIL filed by Rajiv Ranjan Lallan and Sushil Modi alleging interference by Prasad in the fodder scam case trial as well as non-filing of appeals by the authorities against quashing of IT demand cases against him.

Right at the beginning of the proceedings, Singh point-blank asked Justice Variava that he wanted him to disclose the name of the person who had contacted him on the transfer of the trial court judge who was hearing the DA cases against Prasad and Rabri Devi.

When the Bench asked as to which person the counsel was referring to, Singh curtly asked, "Do I have to remind the Lordship about the March 17 order?"

This visibly angered the Bench which started dictating an order saying that Prasad's counsel was "making allegations against the court that it was protecting the person" but later relented by posting the matter for a detailed hearing on August 1.

On March 15 this year, during the hearing on the PIL, Justice Variava had remarked that he had been "contacted" on the transfer of the Patna judge which had led to a furore in Parliament. Two days later, he clarified that his inference that it was an attempt to influence him was wrong.

"It is to be clarified that no one from the high court or on behalf of the high court had enquired of me. The person concerned has since clarified that the enquiry was just an academic enquiry. I am satisfied that the explanation was correct and my original inference that there was an attempt to influence me was wrong," Justice Variava had said, insisting that no pressure was brought on him in any manner.

When Justice Variava today refused to be redrawn into the controversy, Prasad's counsel said, "Do I have to remind your lordship about the March 17 order? This person is from Bihar and is close to your lordship. He is from a particular caste. I can tell the details in chamber and not in the open court."

Maintaining his cool, Justice Variava said, "As far as I am concerned whatever I had to say, I have said. There is nothing to hide. Please say what you have to say in the open court. I have nothing to worry."

Not to stop at this, Singh continued, "Your Lordship tells it is a social encouter and the question was regarding a pending case? Would your Lordship allow me to ask an academic question in a pending case?"

Justice Kapadia intervened at this stage and asked as to why the details of notices sent by director of investigation (income tax) to Prasad had not been filed before the court, which had taken exception to the "hasty" manner in which the IT appellate tribunal at Patna had quashed the cases.

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