Mathew Samuel, the Tehelka journalist who conducted the sting operation on the former Bharatiya Janata Party president, Bangaru Laxman, and a number of other government officials in order to expose middlemen involved in defence deals, refused to depose in a special court here on Monday. He complained that the CBI was not reimbursing him adequately.
Mr. Samuel was presented in court after a bailable warrant was issued against him to give testimony, as the star prosecution witness, against two former Defence Ministry officials H.C. Pant and Narender Singh.
However, Mr. Samuel demanded Rs.10,000 per day to testify, telling the court that the CBI had promised him it would pay his airfare for deposing in the Bangaru Laxman case but had not even paid him the Rs.200 daily allowance for deposing for 25 days in the case.
The CBI sought time until July 12 to file its reply in the matter. Special CBI Judge Manoj Jain told Mr. Samuel that though he himself felt the amount paid was not adequate, he was bound by law and could not grant the expenses sought. However, the judge made a concession, offering to put up a recommendatory note, if Mr. Samuel wanted to present his grievance to the Delhi High Court.
Though the CBI registered 12 cases on the basis of Operation Westend, the trial in only one of these — involving Bangaru Laxman — has been completed.
Speaking to The Hindu, Mr. Samuel said: “The CBI says they want my presence in court for 200 days to depose. I am the material witness in all 11 cases. If I spend 200 days in court, how will I earn my livelihood? Rs. 200 per day is a pittance for a professional like me. The parking charges at courts cost Rs. 50 per day. The lunch at the court canteen costs over Rs. 50 while the lunch allowance is Rs. 25. I told the judge I won't depose under the circumstances, even if he takes me into custody. The judge finally understood my situation, but I am doubtful even he can help.”