Retired Bombay High Court judge Abhay Thipsay, who appeared as a defence witness in the Nirav Modi extradition case, on Friday told India Today that there was no truth in Union minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s claim that he wished to save the diamond merchant at the behest of the Congress.
Nirav Modi is accused of duping Punjab National Bank of more than Rs 13,000 crore. His uncle Mehul Choksi is also a prime accused in the case. Modi fled to the United Kingdom in 2018.
Prasad on Thursday said that Thipsay claimed the charges of cheating and criminal conspiracy against Modi will not hold up in an Indian court. The law minister called this a “sinister attempt” by the Congress to save Modi.
However, Thipsay told India Today on Friday that Prasad’s allegations were “absolutely false” and accused him of making an irresponsible statement. The retired judge claimed that the Bharatiya Janata Party was targeting him.
“If my past judgements hurt you and you have grudges against me, and you take any opportunity to talk any nonsense, then what can be done?” Thipsay asked. “This is absolutely false. It is an irresponsible statement. I will see what has to be done about that. I am trying to get a record of it and consult someone to figure out the next course of action.”
Thipsay said he took fees for appearing for Modi and merely provided a legal opinion, which had nothing to do with the Congress. The retired judge said the Congress did not know that he was appearing for Modi.
However, the BJP knew because the government was served with his opinion, he added. “The opinion is with the government since December,” he said. “They can show it to people, they can challenge it. I don’t know why a political colour is being given to it.”
He also pointed out that former finance minister Arun Jaitley’s daughter was a part of Nirav Modi’s defence team.
Thipsay said following his retirement, he works as a consultant and an arbitrator. “When people come to me for my professional opinion, I don’t report that to the party,” he said. “If I did, it will be unethical. When I am approached professionally, it is between me and the client. My opinion can be debated. It is, after all, a legal opinion. Where does the Congress come in the picture?”
The retired judge admitted that he had joined the Congress, as alleged by Prasad. However, he claimed this was done on an invitation and he was not an office-bearer in the party.
Thipsay also confirmed the Union minister’s comments when he said that the case against Modi will not hold up in Indian courts. “The allegation of cheating requires deception,” he said. “Conspiracy is not the main charge against Nirav Modi. It is an incidental charge. The charge against Nirav Modi is cheating Punjab National Bank and under the Indian law, you must act in deception for it to be a case of cheating. But in this case, the officers involved knew. They acted in collusion.”
In December last year, a court in Mumbai declared Nirav Modi a fugitive economic offender. The businessman was arrested in London last year. Four bail applications have been posted by his legal team since his arrest, but they have been rejected every time as he is deemed a flight risk.