Former Bombay High Court judge Abhay Thipsay has defended his role in the legal opinion he gave in the Nirav Modi case as a witness before a UK court and said Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad targeted him apparently because he had refused to "compromise" despite pressure and persuasions from different quarters in some sensitive cases.
In an interview to a Delhi daily, he said some of his judgments, specially in the infamous Best Bakery case, made some people very unhappy. It was transferred out of Gujarat by the Supreme Court and obviously the Gujarat govt was extremely concerned about the outcome. He said: "There was flood of threatening letters and pleas that as a Hindu I should side with the accused. My judgment upset some people and they found difficult to forget me."
On Prasad's charge that he had acted on behalf of the Congress to help Nirav, he said out of his judicial career of 30 years, the Congress was in power both at the Centre and the State and so majority of his judgments went against the government decisions. He was even accused as pro-BJP when he quashed a defamation case against Nitin Gadkari when he was leader of Opposition in Maharashtra Assembly. "My judgments were always based on the principles enshrined in the Constition," he said.
In the instant case, retired Judge Thipsay said he had simply given a legal opinion as a witness in the Nirav Modi case. "I was not defending Nirav Modi or anyone. Some people are trying to project it as a case of my collusion with an anti-national. This is not done."
Justice Thipsay he had merely explained that under the Indian law, no offence has been defined as a "financial fraud" and so Nirav Modi's case is being treated as a case of cheating. "I explained that since the bank officials were themselves involved in the issuing of he Letters of Undertaking, how can the bank pretend to be a victim?"
"Under the Indian law, for cheating there has to be a conspirator and a victim -- a deceiver and a deceived. The person deceived can initiate legal action against the deceiver. But the bank is not an individual with its own mind. It is represented by certain officials and their action alone can come under legal scrutiny. The bank as an entity cannot pretend to be a victim under the definition of law," he said.
"If the depositors and shareholders had filed complaints and the case was based on it, it would have been a different situation. That was not the case before me. Here PNB has been presented as a victim."
Law Minister Prasad had accused him of acting at the behest of Congress which he joined in 2018 as part of a bigger game plan to bail out Nirav Modi.
Denying the charge, Justice Thipsay said his opinion had nothing to do with the Congress. "Don't people in my position in other parties discharge their professional duty independent of the party's views or position? My opinion is not a secret document. I gave it to the Government of India long back and they replied that also. I don't know why they are suddenly upset."
He went on to remind the law minister that before Nirav Modi fled India and even after the IT conducted raid on him, former law minister Arun Jaitley's daughter was his advocate. The former judge said he has nothing against her or Jaitley as she was doing a professional job just like him. "I can name dozens of advocates with political associations who appeared in several sensitive cases and defended highly controversial accused persons. It's the job of an advocate to do this. I have merely appears as a witness to expound a law point. Why make such a hue and cry over it," he asked.