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Phone-tapping case rebounds on Amar Singh, Mulayam

IANS
Feb 07, 2008 at 08:53pm IST

New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notices to former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Mulayam Singh Yadav and Samajwadi Party General Secretary Amar Singh on a plea to launch contempt of court proceedings against them for allegedly influencing the judiciary.

Yadav and Singh were also issued notices on another plea to suspend a 2006 order of the apex court that bared media from publishing the contents of Singh's telephonic conversation with various people, including Yadav, on the ground that the same had been recorded illegally.

A bench of Chief Justice KG Balakrishnan issued notices to the two political heavyweights on the plea by Mumbai resident Devendra Mandavawala, who gave a sensational turn to the case of the illegal tapping of a telephonic conversation between Singh and Samajwadi Party chief Yadav.

IN THE DOCK: SC asks why contempt proceedings be not initiated against Amar Singh for allegedly undermining the judiciary.

As per the transcript of the conversation, reproduced in Mandavawala's plea, Yadav and Singh talked of influencing the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to secure a desired order in a case related to a legislator belonging to their party's archrival Bahujan Samaj Party.

Appearing for the petitioner, senior counsel KTS Tulsi told the court that the two talked of meeting the Chief Justice of the high court 'secretly' to get the composition of the bench hearing the case related to the BSP legislator changed on the grounds that one of its judges, identified as Justice Prabhukant in the conversation, was not favourably disposed to them.

Tulsi told the court they wanted to have the bench changed while disclosing in their conversation that another judge, Justice Jagdish Bhalla, had assured them a favourable order.

Tulsi pointed out that his plea to launch contempt proceedings was based on the same telephonic conversation that Singh argues was tapped illegally allegedly on the instructions of Delhi Police and had sought the court's direction against the publication of the content of their telephonic talk.

The veracity or the authenticity of these conversations has never been in doubt and was never challenged by Singh, Tulsi said, pointing out that "these conversations clearly establish a case of interfering with the administration of justice and lowering the dignity of the judiciary."

Tulsi argued that Yadav and Singh have "maligned the institution of the judiciary and dealt a fatal blow to its independence and if the apex court does not take them to task, it will be sending an unhealthy signal to citizens of this country."

Supporting Tulsi's argument and pleading to the court to lift the ban on the media from publishing the contents of the telephonic conversation, another counsel Prashant Bhushan said the two political heavyweights "had sought protection from this court on the ground that the conversation was recorded illegally."

"But if the conversation itself discloses the commission of some offence, they cannot escape prosecution for committing the crime," Bhushan said.

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He said: "Yadav and Singh were given the duty of governing billions of people but they cannot be allowed to commit crime in the garb of governance."

During the arguments, Bhushan also referred to the Watergate scandal in the US, which had led then president Richard Nixon to step down following the disclosure of some illegality committed by him during his telephonic conversation that had been tapped illegally.

"Historically, powerful public authorities have been exposed in their illegal and corrupt dealings while in office through such evidence often adduced illegally," said Bhushan.

"Even though the evidence (in the Watergate scandal) was obtained illegally, it was held admissible and made known to the public," said Bhushan, pleading to the court to let the Indian public know the contents of Singh and Yadav's illegally tapped conversation.

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