A senior government lawyer who appeared for the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) in the case involving revocation of passport of Lalit Modi, in the Delhi High Court, has said the Centre should have appealed against the judgment restoring the passport.
“It (appeal to the Supreme Court) should have been done. Normally, it is automatically done. But since I was no longer the Additional Solicitor General (ASG) when the judgment came, I have no idea… why the appeal was not filed,” said senior advocate Rajeeve Mehra.
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The former ASG had represented the Union of India in the case before a single judge (Justice Rajiv Shakdher) as well as before a Division Bench of Justices Badar Durrez Ahmed and Vibhu Bakhru. Justice Shakdher had dismissed Modi’s plea challenging the Mumbai regional passport officer’s decision to revoke his passport for “willfully” avoiding summons under the Foreign Exchange and Management Act. But the division bench had set aside the order and ordered restoration of Modi’s passport.
Mehra, who was appointed by the UPA, finished his term in June first week last year, days after the division bench order came. A decision on whether or not to appeal against the restoration of Modi’s passport was to be taken by the new team. This team is led, incidentally, by Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, who had himself appeared for Modi in the same case in 2012.
There is a division over who the appropriate authority was to challenge the high court order. While some sources said it was the MEA as it was the main respondent in the case, MEA sources said it was the Enforcement Directorate (ED)’s job as the investigating agency.
Sources in the Law Ministry added that there was no record of the MEA having approached it for assistance in filing an appeal. The Law Ministry was consulted though on another matter. Sources said, the government sought legal opinion from it on whether Modi’s request to be crossed-examined through video-link in view of a “threat” to his life could be accepted. The Ministry cleared the proposal but nothing further was reportedly heard from the probe agencies.