Senior advocates Indira Jaising, Kapil Sibal and Dushyant Dave on Monday, 27 January, strongly refuted the claims made in several news reports that they had received payment from the controversial Islamic outfit Popular Front of India (PFI) as part of its alleged support for anti-CAA protests across the country.
The claims of payment by PFI arose out of documents allegedly sent by the Enforcement Directorate for the Ministry of Home Affairs, in which they had analysed the finances and bank accounts of the organisation and noted that payments were made from one of their accounts to certain “important persons/entities” including the three senior advocates.
The reported ED documents – which the ED has not denied came from them – do not specify any dates for when these payments were allegedly made. Despite requests from Uttar Pradesh and Kerala for proscription of the PFI, it is yet to be banned by the Centre under any law.
Several of the media outlets which ran the original story later modified the same to say that the payments were related to the Hadiya case, without including any corrections regarding the claim of a link to the anti-CAA protests. There is nothing in the ED documents that actually indicates that the payments made to the lawyers had anything to do with the anti-CAA protests.
Fees Paid for Hadiya Case: Kapil Sibal
Speaking to PTI, Congress leader Kapil Sibal, on Monday, said the payments he received from the PFI had nothing to do with anti-CAA protests and were made for the legal services he offered in 2017 and 2018, much before the new law was passed.
In a statement, the former union minister dismissed reports questioning the payments made to him by the PFI, and said he was paid for representing Hadiya in the infamous case challenging the decision of the Kerala High Court setting aside a wedding between two consenting adults on the basis of claims of ‘love jihad’.
Ultimately, the Supreme Court struck down the high court’s decision; during the hearing, Hadiya and her husband, Shafin Jahan, were represented by Sibal, Jaising and Dave.
“In that litigation, I represented Hadiya, the wife. Ultimately, the marriage was upheld and Hadiya was given the liberty to live with her husband Shafin Jahan,” Sibal said.
He said the cheques, when received in his office, were deposited and encashed by his staff.
“I was paid for professional services rendered and for nothing else... The first invoice was raised on 4 August 2017 and the last of the seven invoices was on 8 March 2018,” he said, adding that, “The CAA was cleared by Parliament only in December 2019.”
Cannot See Link With CAA Protests: Indira Jaising
In a statement on Monday, senior advocate Indira Jaising categorically denied having received any money from any individual or organisation in relation to the protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act, 2019.
Speaking to The Quint, Jaising clarified that she only raised one invoice for Rs 4 lakhs (the amount claimed to have been paid by PFI to her) in relation to the Hadiya case, not the CAA.
“I received 4 lakhs for 4 August 2017 appearance in Hadiya case. I continued to appear for Hadiya till the date the judgment was delivered by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court comprising the then Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra, Justice AM Khanwilkar and Justice DY Chandrachud. However, I have not raised any bills for subsequent appearances.”Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate
Jaising also questioned why this controversy was created in the first place, given the time difference between the raising of the bill and the protests against the CAA.
“I cannot see the link with anti-CAA protests which came in December 2019 and January 2020. This was a bill issued in August 2017 and paid in August 2017.”Indira Jaising, Senior Advocate
Never Appeared for PFI: Dushyant Dave
In a statement to LiveLaw, Supreme Court Bar Association President Dushyant Dave also said that the fees paid to him for his appearances in the Hadiya matter – he appeared thrice but only billed for one appearance on 9 October 2017 – were not paid by the PFI but by the Advocate on Record who had briefed him.
(With inputs from PTI, LiveLaw.)