The Delhi High Court on Thursday convicted two senior lawyers R.K. Anand and I.U. Khan of criminal contempt for trying to “persuade” key witness Sunil Kulkarni in the BMW hit-and-run case to turn hostile.
Six people were run over allegedly by industrialist Sanjeev Nanda in January 1999. During trial, all witnesses turned hostile.
The court held the two guilty of “... obstructing the administration of justice”.
The court has debarred the duo from appearing in high court and lower courts for four months. It has recommended that they be stripped of their designation of senior advocate.
When contacted, Khan said: “Whatever I have to say I will say in the Supreme Court.” Despite repeated attempts, Anand was not available for comment.
This is the first time that a media report of a nexus between the prosecution and defence in a case has led to court action against lawyers.
The High Court’s order evoked sharp reaction from bar associations of the four district courts, which called a one-day strike on Friday. According to them, only the Bar Council of Delhi or Bar Council of India can debar a lawyer from practising, not a court.
On May 30 last year, NDTV aired a sting operation showing public prosecutor Khan and Nanda’s lawyer Anand negotiating separately with witness Sunil Kulkarni to turn hostile and save Nanda. The next day the high court had initiated contempt proceedings against the lawyers.
After 15 months of hearing and close scrutiny of the tapes, a Bench of Justices Manmohan Sarin and M.B. Lokur said: “We are not dealing with a young lawyer who, driven by ambition and desire to make his career and in his over-zealousness, transgresses the limits by crossing the Lakshman Rekha. We are dealing with senior advocates who are expected to become role models for younger members of Bar.”
Anand, a renowned criminal lawyer who has defended Narasimha Rao, K. Natwar Singh, H.K.L. Bhagat, Shibu Soren and godman Chandraswami in various cases, was absent in court. But Khan was present at the time of the verdict.