Zaiwalla Urges Indian President to intervene in book ban row


London-based well-known Indian-origin solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla complains to Indian President Ramnath Kovind, Chief Justice of India, Sharad Bobde and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah, about misconduct of Patiala Court Judge Sanjeev Jain and Congress party MP regarding the order to restrict the sale and distribution of his memoirs titled Honour Bound – Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in the English Courts’…. Writes Kaliph Anaz.

London-based solicitor Sarosh Zaiwalla released a letter he wrote to President Ramnath Kovind complaining about a quid pro quo between Patiala Court judge, Sanjeev Jain, and Congress party MP and lawyer, Dr Abhishek Singhvi, and requesting the head of state for an inquiry into the case.

The letter was copied to the Chief Justice of India, Sharad Bobde and Union Home Minister, Amit Shah.

Zaiwalla’s memoirs ‘Honour Bound – Adventures of an Indian Lawyer in the English Courts’ were published last year by HarperCollins India.

The letter said, “an excerpt on my experience and knowledge regarding Mr Abhishek Manu Singhvi and his late father Mr L M Singhvi was published in the book which was before the Delhi’s Patiala Court”.

Mr Zaiwalla, senior partner of Zaiwalla & Co, one of the most prominent legal firms in London, further stated: “An injunction and all judicial relief were granted to the plaintiff Mr Singhvi by passing an ex parte order restricting the sales and distribution of the book. This was done without serving the proceedings on me as required by local law in England as the author of the book residing in the United Kingdom.”

Mr Zaiwalla alleged, “The judicial proceedings in this case are entirely suspicious of a quid pro quo between the Congress Leader and Member of Parliament Mr Abhishek Manu Singhvi and the Patiala Court’s Judge Sanjeev Jain.”

Mr Zaiwalla appealed to Kovind by saying: “As a member of the legal fraternity and admirer of the Indian judiciary, I humbly request you to please order an independent inquiry in this case.”

In 1990,  Zaiwalla & Co acted on behalf of Ajitabh Bachchan, younger brother of Bollywood megastar Amitabh Bachchan (both friends of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi), at the High Court of London in a libel suit against a Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter, which had reported the brothers had received kickbacks from the arms firm Bofors in a deal to sell field guns to the Indian army when Rajiv Gandhi was prime minister. Zaiwalla and the Bachchans succeeded in inflicting a significant defeat on the daily.

Mr Zaiwalla recorded in Honour Bound: “Judge MacPherson ruled that damages be paid to Ajitabh. After an adjournment, the court reassembled to hear from Charles Grey (the barrister appointed by Zaiwalla). He said the allegations by Dagens Nyheter had not only caused distress to Ajitabh but ‘also caused embarrassment to Rajiv Gandhi’, and in order to soothe this distress Ajitabh had been awarded ‘substantial’ damages and costs.”

The book goes on to narrate: “The Bofors saga had also entangled me in a political uproar in India, with my name bandied about in Parliament. Rene Felber, the Swiss foreign minister, leaked a memo to a journalist that had been handed to him by his Indian counterpart, Madhavsinh Solanki. This note recommended to the Swiss government that it close its inquiry into the Bofors kickbacks. When this news reached India, Solanki admitted in Parliament that he was given a sealed envelope to give to Felber, but said he was unaware it contained a Bofors memo. Solanki further elaborated he was in his seat on the plane when ‘a well-respected Indian lawyer in London’ gave him the envelope and requested him to give it to the Swiss foreign minister.”

“There was a presumption in the Indian press that this lawyer was me. Naturally, the Indian parliament raised questions about the propriety of its foreign minister carrying a sealed envelope, without knowing its contents. I knew nothing about it. There was no way I would have got security clearance to board a plane on which I was not travelling, let along deliver anything to anyone on it. Vir Sanghvi (a senior Indian journalist) later told me the person who had handed the envelope over might have been the Indian high commissioner in the UK, Dr L M Singhvi, who was also a senior lawyer. Because of his diplomatic status, he would have had access and authority to meet the minister on the plane.”

In reference to an arbitration matter 27 years ago between the Government of India and a Danish company Volund, in which he was one of the arbitrators, Zaiwalla recounted in Honour Bound: “At the hearing in London, the Indian high commissioner appointed his son Abhishek Manu Singhvi, then a relatively junior lawyer, as counsel.”

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