Kapil Sibal threatens to sue news channels making baseless allegations of him receiving money for CAA Protests
New Delhi, Jan 27: Senior advocate and Rajya Sabha MP Kapil Sibal denied receiving any funds from the Popular Front of India in relation to protests against the newly-enacted Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). Addressing the press, he said that the sum of Rs. 77 lakh was paid to him for appearing in the Hadiya matter of 2017 in Supreme Court. He further said that if certain news channels fail to stop this disinformation campaign to defame him based on baseless allegations, he would sue them in a court of law.
Sibal's remarks came after the Enforcement Directorate (ED), here on Monday, said it had identified the PFI and the Rehab Foundation India (RFI) for providing over Rs 120 crore for the protests over the new citizenship law (CAA) and the proposed National Register of Citizens (NRC).
According to the ED, Rs 77 lakh was paid to Sibal, Rs 4 lakh to senior advocate Indira Jaising, Rs 11 lakh to senior lawyer Dushyant Dave and Rs 3.10 lakh to person named Abdul Samad, who is also named in the National Investigation Agency (NIA) charge-sheet.
Refuting the claims Sibal had said, "The ED has released a statement analysing the PFI's bank accounts in which my name has been mentioned as a recipient for funding the anti-CAA agitations."
Sibal said the CAA became law only in December, 2019. "In all matters in which I have appeared in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the CAA, I have not raised, till date, any invoice," he said.
Accepting receiving Rs 77 lakh from the PFI, Sibal said, "The statement that I was paid Rs 77 lakh is with respect to a litigation in the special leave petition titled 'Shafin Jahan versus Asokan K.M. and others. This is related to Hadiya's marriage to Shafin Jahan, which was challenged right up to the Supreme Court with the NIA and the father of Hadiya being parties."
In that, Sibal said he represented Hadiya, the wife, and ultimately the marriage was upheld and Hadiya was given the liberty to live with her husband Shafin. "For my appearances, I raised invoices and received payments thereon, through cheques from August 4, 2017 till March 8, 2018 from the PFI's Syndicate Bank account in Kerala's Kozhikode," he said.
Sibal said he had raised the invoices on his advocate on record Haris Beerab for each of the appearances. Seven cheques were received in his office and were deposited in the bank by his staff, he added.
"I was paid for professional services rendered and for nothing else. Any insinuations made to besmirch my name and defame me will be taken seriously," he said.
Earlier in the day, Sibal refuted receiving payments from the PFI. "I have never received any amount from any organisation except for litigation. I don't even remember. Give me the dates of the receipt and I shall find out and let you know," Sibal told IANS. "If I would have received the payment then it must be a cheque payment, as I don't take cash," the senior lawyer said.
"If this amount has come to me through bank transfer then I must have raised a bill. If that amount is paid for legal services then what's wrong?" he said.
Sibal also said he never appeared for any one linked to the CAA protests. "I have not represented any of the PFI cases and also not of the CAA protesters. The PFI has never paid me," he said.
An ED source told IANS, "While keeping a tab on the PFI, we identified 73 bank accounts. Following the money trail, we came to know about the RFI, which provided over Rs 120 crore for the CAA and the NRC protests."
Stating that bank accounts with huge transactions were detected in the last two months, the source said, "The ED has been keeping a tab on the PFI's 27 and the RFI's nine bank accounts, and accounts of 37 individuals and entities in 17 different banks."
"During the probe it was found the money transferred into these accounts were either cash deposits or made through NEFT/RTGS/IMPS. The amounts were withdrawn either the same day or within two-three days, leaving only minimal money in these accounts," the source said.
From the PFI's Syndicate Bank accounts in Nehru Place (New Delhi) and western UP districts, like Hapur, Shamli, Bahraich, Bijnor and Dasna, branches Rs 41.5 crore was deposited.
According to the source, Rs 27 crore cash was deposited in 27 bank accounts. Rs 1.04 crore was deposited in 15 bank accounts of the PFI in 10 banks and the RFI (five banks) between December 4, 2019 and January 6, 2020.
He said the deposits were in the forms of IMPS using mobile and amounts varied from Rs 5,000 to Rs 49,000. The deposit was kept below Rs 50,000 to prevent disclosure of the depositor's identity.
According to the source, nine offices of the PFI and related organisations have been opened in the Shaheen Bagh area to fund the protests.
Reacting to the ED documents pertaining to payments for the CAA protests, PFI General Secretary Mohammed Ali Jinnah said, "The PFI strongly condemns the news reports broadcast by news channels regarding PFI's financial links to instigate the CAA protest.
"First, the news channels have attributed the report to the ED through some 'unnamed sources', but the ED has not contacted our organisation, nor issued any official statement regarding allegations," he said.
Stating that the PFI fully complied with the law of the land, Jinnah said, "the allegation of Rs 120 crore transferred from its accounts just before the CAA protest is baseless and the people who are levelling these allegations should prove these claims."
He said few news channels were also broadcasting that funds transferred from the Kerala state PFI accounts were for advocates, like Sibal, Dave and Jaising.
"It exposes the intention of the vested interests who are keen to blame the PFI for everything that is happening in India. The truth is transfers were made in 2017 as lawyer fees in the Hadiya Case. Attributing a fee transfer in 2017 as a funding for 2019 CAA protest is absurd and exposes the intention to defame the PFI," he said.
"We challenge the so-called unnamed sources to prove that there is any wing of the PFI working in Kashmir," Jinnah said.