New Delhi: Legal troubles are likely to mount for former Union minister and Congress leader Jagdish Tytler for his alleged role in a forged letter that was sent to the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in 2009. The conduct of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) in the case, too, has come under questioning after one of the key witnesses in the case stated that the agency has not bothered to reach out to him despite him repeatedly writing to the agency offering his deposition.
On 4 January, the CBI moved the Delhi High Court seeking to challenge the order of a trial court which rejected its plea to allow C. Edmond Allen, a US national and a former business partner of businessman Abhishek Verma, who is also an accused in the case along with Tytler, to depose as a witness in the case.
The trial court had disallowed CBI’s request on multiple grounds including accepting the argument of Verma’s counsel that the trial in the case had already gone beyond the time limit set by the Supreme Court and that Allen had refused to appear as a witness despite being summoned by the CBI multiple times.
However, both Allen and his lawyer, Harshvardhan Jha, told The Sunday Guardian that despite reaching out to the CBI multiple times, it was the agency that “sat on their request” to allow him to depose as a witness in the case.
The case was lodged on a complaint on 20 July 2012 by the then Minister of state for Home Ajay Maken, who had alleged that a forged letter on his letterhead, was written to then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, seeking easing of visa norms in 2009 for the employees of Chinese telecom company, ZTE.
Allen, 75, told The Sunday Guardian, “I would categorically like to state that I was never issued summons four times and there seems to be a concerted effort to keep me from testifying.” Allen also shared documents, including an email that he sent to the judge concerned and the CBI on 30 September 2020, stating that his application to be cross examined through video conferencing dated 26 November 2019, has been pending for more than a year.
“The CBI contacted me only once on 12 March 2020 seeking the facts that I wanted to depose in the case, but nothing happened after that”, Allen said. Allen had responded to the said request of the CBI on 8 April 2020 through an email to the SP, Anti Corruption Unit (ACU)-1 where he confirmed that he was ready to give his deposition through video conferencing from the Indian Consulate in New York.
Both Tytler and Verma have strongly denied the allegations.
Interestingly, on 8 December last year, Shailender Malik, Special Judge, CBI, who is hearing the case, passed a stringent stricture against Allen for sending mails to the court and other authorities in which he was using “derogatory language”. The court said, “..It needs to be taken on record that witness Mr C. Edmond Allen, is sending mails repeatedly to this court and other courts as well as authorities, wherein he is using derogatory language. Without going into details of the language used in e-mails which on the face of it appears to be derogatory to the judicial process.”
Email sent by The Sunday Guardian to the CBI seeking the agency’s response to Allen’s claims that CBI sat on his request elicited no response till the time the story went to press.
It is pertinent to mention that a joint team of six officers from the CBI and ED had recorded Allen’s statement while personally flying down to New York in October 2012. After that, the trial court had on 9 December 2015 put Tytler and Verma on trial under various sections of IPC, including 420 (cheating), 471 (fraudulently or dishonestly using as genuine any forged document or electronic record) and 120-B (criminal conspiracy).
Harshvardhan Jha, Allen’s lawyer, told The Sunday Guardian that he was going to file an Intervention Application (IA) in the case to bring out the fact that his client, as documentary evidence shows, wanted to depose in the case, but it was the CBI which did not pursue it. “The next date of the hearing in the case is 27 January. In our IA, we will make it clear enough that there was no reluctance from our side, but it was the CBI which did not facilitate our deposition in the case. We intend to depose in the case,” he said.