Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra’s lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayana on Friday recused himself from her defemation suit against Bharatiya Janata Party MP Nishikant Dubey and lawyer Jai Anant Dehadrai, reported Live Law.

This came after Dehadrai alleged in the court that Sankaranarayanan, a senior advocate, contacted him on Thursday and asked him to withdraw his complaint against Moitra. Dehadrai alleged that this was in exchange for Henry – a pet dog over whom he and Moitra are engaged in a custody battle. Both of them have accused each other of “stealing” Henry.

“There is something very disturbing,” said Dehadrai. “There is a very serious conflict of interest. He [Sankaranarayanan] had a 30-minute call with me. He cannot appear in the matter.”

Sankaranarayanan admitted that he had contacted Dehadrai with Moitra’s consent, reported Bar and Bench. “Jai has instructed me in the past,” he told the court. “That is why, when I was asked to appear in the matter, I told my client to let me speak with him.”

Justice Sachin Datta stated that he was appalled. He told Sankaranarayanan that the lawyer is expected to maintain the highest professional standard. There could be a conflict of interest if he has been in contact with Dehadrai, said Datta.

“Are you then eligible to still appear in this matter?” he asked. “It’s something that you need to answer yourself. It’s your call.”

Sankaranarayanan then said that he was withdrawing from the case.

What is the case about?

On October 15, Dubey wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla seeking to have Moitra immediately suspended for allegedly taking bribes from businessman Darshan Hiranandani to ask questions in parliament.

He accused Moitra of breach of parliamentary privilege, contempt of the House and criminal conspiracy. Nearly 50 of the 61 questions asked by Moitra were meant to “seek information with the intent of protecting or perpetuating business interests” of Hiranandani, Dubey alleged in his letter.

Dubey cited a letter from Dehadrai, reportedly Moitra’s estranged partner, claiming that he had shared “irrefutable evidence” about the Trinamool Congress MP asking questions in parliament in exchange for cash and gifts.

On October 16, the Hiranandani Group said that Dubey’s allegations had “no merit”. However, on October 19, Hiranandani, the chief executive officer of the real estate company Hiranandani Group, submitted an affidavit to the Lok Sabha ethics committee, accusing Moitra of spreading unverified information about industrialist Gautam.

Hiranandani claimed that Moitra had provided him with access to her online Lok Sabha account so that he could post questions directly on her behalf when required.

In the letter that was shared widely on social media on Thursday, the businessman claimed that Moitra “thought that the only way to attack [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi is by attacking Gautam Adani and his group as both were contemporaries, and they belong to the same state of Gujarat”.

Moitra has sued Dubey and Dehadrai for defamation. She has also sent notices to 18 news organisations that reported the allegations.