Senior advocates Kapil Sibal, Indira Jaisingh and Dushyant Dave have refuted claims that they had received money from the Popular Front of India in connection with the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act, The Times of India reported on Tuesday. They threatened to take legal action for unsubstantiated allegations, and against any person/media organisation who tried to tarnish their reputation.
The Enforcement Directorate had written a letter to the Union Ministry of Home Affairs alleging that Congress leader Sibal, and lawyers Jaising and Dave received payments from the Popular Front of India, The Indian Express reported on Monday. However, the letter did not mention that these funds were received for supporting protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act.
“I completely and vehemently deny having received any money from PFI at any point of time, or receiving any money from any person or organisation in relation to anti-CAA protests,” Jaisingh said in a statement.
The Enforcement Directorate had claimed that at least Rs 120 crore was deposited in the accounts of the Popular Front of India in Western Uttar Pradesh after the Citizenship Amendment Act was passed by Parliament on December 11 last year, PTI reported.
The Enforcement Directorate alleged that scrutiny of a Popular Front of India account with the Syndicate Bank branch on Moovar Road in Kozhikode, Kerala, revealed that payments of Rs 3.77 crore were made to various individuals and persons. This includes payments to Sibal (Rs 77 lakh), Jaising (Rs 4 lakh), Dave (Rs 11 lakh), Popular Front of India Kashmir (Rs 1.65 crore), New Jyothi Group (1.17 crore), and a person called Abdul Samad (Rs 3.10 lakh). Samad is an accused against whom the National Investigation Agency has filed a chargesheet in a case related to a hawala network funding terror activities in India.
In her statement, Jaising added: “The note showing details of transaction from the PFI account alleged to be made to me does not contain any signature or date, nor does it contain the name of the agency from where it has originated, and is therefore wholly unreliable.” The advocate warned that she would take “serious civil as well as criminal legal action” against persons or media houses who try to tarnish her reputation.
Sibal said he received Rs 77 lakh as litigation fee for appearing in the Supreme Court between August 2017 and March 2018 for Hadiya in a case related to her marriage with Shafiya Jahan, reported IANS. He added that the money had nothing to do with the protests against the citizenship law. “In all matters in which I have appeared in the Supreme Court challenging constitutionality of the CAA, I have not raised, till date, any invoice,” he told The Times of India. “Any insinuations made to besmirch my name and defame me will be taken seriously.”
Dave said it was known to the public that the PFI collected money for Hadiya’s legal battle. “It is very unfortunate that the issue is being raised now when the PFI had itself in 2018 made a statement that it had spent a total of Rs 99,52,324 on fighting Hadiya case,” he told the daily. “I appeared in the case thrice and one bill was raised for the appearance on October 9, 2017 for which we received the fee on October 30.”
Hadiya’s marriage to a Muslim man, Shafin Jahan, was annulled by the Kerala High Court in May 2017. Her father had alleged that his daughter had been brainwashed and forced to convert to Islam. But the top court held that marriage and intimacy of personal relationships were at the core of India’s plurality and that the state could not be allowed to make “inroads into this extremely personal space”.
Popular Front of India General Secretary Mohammad Ali Jinnah claimed that his organisation had not funded the protests against the amended Citizenship Act. He also said payments shown against the names of Sibal, Dave and Jaising were made in connection with the Hadiya marriage case, and were publicly declared.
The Popular Front of India claimed that it “fully complies with the law of the land, and allegation of Rs 120 crore transferred from [its] accounts just before CAA protest is totally baseless…Popular Front of India does not have any wing or branch in Jammu and Kashmir”.
The Citizenship Amendment Act provides citizenship to refugees from six minority religious communities from Bangladesh, Afghanistan and Pakistan, provided they have lived in India for six years and entered the country by December 31, 2014. The Act has been widely criticised for excluding Muslims. Twenty-six people died in last month’s protests against the law – all in the BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka and Assam.