Accused of representing the 1984-riot-hit Sikhs for a high fee, Supreme Court lawyer Harvinder Singh Phoolka has chosen to counter-attack.
Speaking here on Friday, Phoolka, Lok Sabha candidate of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from Ludhiana, dismissed the statement of Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) president Avtar Singh Makkar about the fee as false and made at the behest of deputy chief minister Sukhbir Singh Badal.
He said the allegation was propaganda "to malign the image of the advocates who had fought for justice". Makkar has said the SGPC paid Rs 42 lakh as fee to a panel of five Phoolka-recommended lawyers to fight the cases against riot accused Congress leaders Jagdish Tytler and Sajjan Kumar.
"The statement is false and derogatory. I have spoken to the lawyers about the fee. They said the SGPC had paid them only about Rs 7 lakh," said Phoolka. Like a true lawyer, Phoolka even gave the breakdown of the fee.
"Kamna Vohra, who received about Rs 5 lakh for handling nearly 20 cases, is a noted criminal lawyer of 28-year standing who is associated with these cases for the past 14 years. Jagjit Singh and Gurbax Singh received Rs 1 lakh each for five and four cases, respectively. Both are established lawyers and Gurbax has been handling the cases related to HKL Bhagat," said the AAP leader.
The last on the panel was Jasmeet Singh, who had handled five cases but received no fee, so far, said Phoolka. Saluting the lawyers, he said all had charged only nominal fee. "It is not easy for a lawyer to appear against Tytler and Sajjan Kumar and live in Delhi at the same time. The Sikh community is indebted to them, as they risked their lives and careers by taking up the cases of riot victims."
"The Shiromani Akali Dal president (Sukhbir) and the SGPC chief may not be answerable to me but they are accountable to the people of Punjab and Sikhs at large," Phoolka added.