TMC demands removal of Tushar Mehta as solicitor general, its MPs meet President

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New Delhi, Jul 5 (PTI) A delegation of Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs met President Ram Nath Kovind on Monday and sought the removal of Tushar Mehta as the Solicitor General of India, alleging that his reported meeting with West Bengal BJP leader Suvendu Adhikari raised serious doubts of impropriety.

TMC MPs Sukhendu Sekhar Ray and Mahua Moitra also submitted a letter to the president, which said, 'This meeting took place at Mehta's official residence.' 'Such a meeting, between one of the highest serving law officers of India, the solicitor general, who is also appointed as the special public prosecutor for the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and an accused person being investigated by the same agency, raises extremely serious doubts of impropriety,' the letter submitted by the MPs on behalf of the TMC stated.

Solicitor General Mehta has denied meeting Adhikari at his official residence here.

Adhikari, once a Trinamool Congress heavyweight, is accused in the 2016 Narada tapes case. He is now the Leader of Opposition in the West Bengal Assembly. He defeated Mamata Banerjee in Nandigram during the Assembly election earlier this year on a BJP ticket.

Mehta is representing the CBI in the Supreme Court and the Calcutta High Court in the agency's probe against senior TMC leaders in the matter.

Various news items, containing videos and photographs, mentions a private one-on-one meeting between BJP's Adhikari, 'an accused' in serious criminal offences, and Mehta, the solicitor general, the letter stated.

This is a 'deeply troubling matter of national importance that raises grave doubts of impropriety in one of India's highest legal offices -- the Office of the Solicitor General of India', it said.

Later in the day, the ruling party in Bengal, in a press conference, said that Mehta’s explanation in the matter was 'untenable'.

'Mehta, in his clarification, claimed that Adhikari was seated in his waiting room and when he was informed about the BJP leader's visit he apologised and conveyed through his staff his inability to meet him,' Moitra told reporters.

Asserting that one cannot just saunter into the residence of the solicitor general of India, the MP said, 'It is news for us and the people of India that the solicitor general has to apologise to an accused of not meeting him.' She added that if Mehta's version is indeed correct then why doesn't he release the CCTV footage of his house.

'This is not just an issue that affects the TMC. Mehta holds the post of the second-highest law officer in the country. We will not let this matter be swept under the carpet,' Moitra said.

Earlier, the party's MPs -- Derek O'Brien, Ray and Moitra -- had also written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for removing Mehta alleging that the meeting between Mehta and Adhikari was in violation of established norms and 'reeks of impropriety'.

The party's letter to the president pointed out in detail their objections to the meeting.

'To make matters worse, this meeting took place subsequent to an equally improper meeting between Adhikari and the Home Minister of India, Amit Shah. Notably, Adhikari is accused in various criminal cases of cheating, illegal gratification, and bribery etc.' Such meetings make a total mockery of the criminal justice system and would only serve to destroy the common man's faith in the judiciary, the letter stated.

'We, therefore, have reasons to believe that such a meeting has been organised to influence the outcome of criminal cases where Adhikari is an accused person, using the high offices of the solicitor general.

'We state that the act of the solicitor general to provide an opportunity of an audience to Suvendu Adhikari not only indicative of grave impropriety but also raises troubling doubts about his professional integrity,' the TMC said.

The party also said that Mehta, realising the 'gravity of his actions', attempted to offer an explanation to the media that Adhikari came to meet him 'unannounced', and hence he had to 'apologise' for not meeting him.

'We ask ourselves if this means that the solicitor general would indeed have met an accused person in criminal cases if they had come with a prior appointment. We ask ourselves, has the solicitor general forgotten the ethics and principles which circumscribe his conduct in the high office he occupies,' the TMC said in the letter.

The party demanded that Mehta's conduct be investigated, and pending such inquiry, he must tender his resignation.

'The sanctity of the office of the Solicitor General of India cannot be seen to be compromised. Public interest, integrity and neutrality of the office of the Solicitor General of India are required to be protected at all costs,' it said.

'We, therefore, approach Your Excellency (the president) to initiate necessary steps for the removal of Tushar Mehta from the post of the Solicitor General of India to uphold India's Constitutional values,' the party said.

On July 3, Mehta had said, 'Suvendu Adhikari did come to my residence cum office on Thursday around 3 pm, unannounced. Since I was already in a pre-scheduled meeting in my chamber, my staff requested him to sit in the waiting room of my office building and offered him a cup of tea.' 'When my meeting was over and thereafter my PPS informed me about his arrival, I requested my PPS to convey to Adhikari my inability to meet him and apologise as he had to wait. Adhikari thanked my PPS and left without insisting to meet me. The question of my meeting with Mr Adhikari, therefore, did not arise,' the law officer had said. PTI ASG NSD

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