London, Sep 7 (IANS) Fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi’s request of a press blackout on evidence by former Bombay High Court judge Justice Abhay Thipsay has been refused by a London judge. Justice Thipsay is acting as witness on Modi’s behalf this week.
Modi’s lawyer Claire Montgomery QC claimed Thipsay had been subjected to vile allegations after he gave evidence during the first phase of hearings in May. She made an application to Westminster Magistrates’ Court on Monday for reporting restrictions on Thipsay’s evidence during the second phase of Modi’s extradition trial.
Montgomery requested district judge Samuel Mark Goozee for Thipsay’s proof to be heard by the courtroom in person or for the reporting to be postponed until the “sting is out of the story” to stop Nirav from being subjected to “a completely unfounded critique of his proof” once again by Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad.
District Judge Goozee then declared Justice Thipsay had himself engaged with the media in response to the controversy, and refused to take a seat in private or postpone reporting.
Thipsay, who retired as a judge in 2017, gave evidence on May 13 as a witness for Nirav Modi at his first hearing and said that the charges levelled by the CBI against Modi – specifically dishonest and legal conspiracy – would not stand under Indian law.
The next day Union minister Prasad held a press meet and accused Thipsay of working on the behest of the Congress party to save Modi.
Montgomery told the courtroom, at that occasion Prasad “launched an advert hominem assault on Thipsay and his proof suggesting incompetence and that he was biased and had given proof on the behest of the Congress” to protect “a longtime fraudster.”
She stated reporting restrictions had been needed for “order and within the pursuits of justice” to stop an additional assault on Justice Thipsay.
“The variety of papers that ran with the story was engineered as results of that press convention,” Montgomery stated.
“I would love the press and Indian authorities to be precluded from a private hearing, however, allow legal professionals to be there,” she stated.
“What the minister stated was plainly contempt. The minister of justice and the solicitor normal see nothing unsuitable in making unfair and unfounded remarks concerning the proceedings,” she stated.
Refusing the application, District Judge Gooze stated, “It’s my view the press convention was given in political context of BJP and political commentary concerning the Congress party. This can be an excessive profile case in India and I’ve little doubt Thipsay has overseen many excessive profile circumstances and entered into the sector along with his eyes open.”
Gooze pointed out Thipsay had not refused to provide proof, had given slightly additional proof for this week and he needed to be heard in person to stop being maligned, however, that did not amount to the exceptional circumstances required to make it personal and there was no proof it could give rise to substantial threat of prejudice to the course of justice.
“I don’t concern myself about political commentary in India,” Goozee added.
Helen Malcom, representing the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), on behalf of the federal government of India, stated, “This occurred in a political context, the minister who stated it’s BJP and Thipsay is a widely known member of Congress. There’s zero proof that what occurred afterwards was orchestrated by the federal government of India.”
“The strategies of expression, hyperbole and degree of dialogue widespread in India is not what we would see in this nation,” Malcom added.
The charges against the fugitive merchant centre around his firms Diamonds R Us, Stellar Diamonds and Solar Exports making fraudulent use of a credit facility offered by the Punjab National Bank (PNB), known as “letters of undertaking” (LoUs).
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), arguing on behalf of the Indian authorities, sought to establish that a number of PNB staff conspired with Modi to ensure LoUs. The letters of undertaking (LoUs) were issued to his companies without required credit checks, without recording the issuance of the LoUs and without charging the required commission upon the transactions. This resulted in a fraud amounting to nearly USD 2 billion.