Sushma Swaraj has been asserting that she had done no wrong in facilitating Lalit Modi’s travel documents from the UK and only acted on “humanitarian” grounds. While a legal row over Modi’s travel documents was raging in India, Sushma’s daughter Bansuri was consistently appearing on Modi’s behalf in Delhi High Court.
Bansuri, a law graduate from Oxford University and a Barrister at Law from Inner Temple in UK, had appeared between April 2012 and August 2014 among the battery of lawyers representing Modi.
The roots of the legal battle lay in the Enforcement Directorate’s summons to Modi in 2010 for an inquiry under FEMA. Modi failed to respond, the ED initiated proceedings and, in March 2011, the Regional Passport Office, Mumbai, revoked his passport (No. Z-1784222) “in the interest of the general public”.
This order was challenged by Modi. On April 18, 2012, the HC issued a notice on Modi’s plea. Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, now the Attorney General of India, had appeared for him.
Subsequently, Bansuri, who was then assisting U U Lalit, then a senior advocate and now a Supreme Court judge, appeared for Modi on a number of occasions.
By an order in January 2013, the single-judge bench dismissed Modi’s appeal against the passport revocation order. Justice Rajiv Shakdher noted ED’s concerns “to protect the economic interest of the country in respect of which the allegation is that money to the tune of hundreds of crore has been parked by the petitioner outside the country, would require examination.” The judgment records Bansuri’s appearance with Lalit Modi.
Modi appealed this order before a division bench of the HC. A notice was issued on March 5, 2013, and senior advocate Harish Salve appeared for him on this date.
Senior advocate and former additional solicitor general Parag P Tripathi led his case now. Bansuri was still standing on Modi’s side although a different senior lawyer appeared for Modi from this stage.
On August 27, 2014, the division bench set aside the order revoking the passport. The bench, headed by Justice B D Ahmed, held that ED should have accepted Modi’s request for interrogation through videoconferencing instead of physical questioning. It said FEMA prescribed various other statutory penalties and revocation of the passport “in the interest of the general public” was not lawful.
This judgment also recorded Bansuri’s appearance on behalf of Modi. If Swaraj did write to British lawmaker Keith Vaz to recommend travel documents for Modi, the recommendation would have come while the judgment on his appeal was reserved by the HC. The division bench order was not challenged by the government in the Supreme Court.
The Indian Express sought Bansuri Swaraj’s response but she was not available for comment.