The Supreme Court lawyer serves defamation notice on Sukhbir Badal
By nominating noted Supreme Court lawyer H.S. Phoolka from the Ludhiana Lok Sabha constituency, the Aam Aadmi Party has created a stir in Punjab. Mr. Phoolka comes with the formidable reputation of one who has tirelessly fought cases of the 1984 anti-Sikh riot victims in various courts for over two decades.
On Tuesday, as Mr. Phoolka shot off a defamation notice to Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Badal of the Akali Dal for alleging that he (Mr. Phoolka) had charged fees for his services to the victims’ families, it became clear that the battle ahead for the crucial Sikh votes will be bitter and hard.
Justice for the families of the 1984 victims is a sensitive issue in Punjab, one that is used by the ruling Akali Dal-BJP combine in its political battles against the Congress.
With Mr. Phoolka’s entry in the electoral fray, the first salvo was fired by Mr. Badal who tried to discredit the lawyer. At a function, the junior Badal reportedly said: “Mr. Phoolka is a professional lawyer who charged a heavy fee for fighting these cases. The Shiromani Akali Dal, the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and the Delhi Sikh Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee have all paid him. Earlier he represented us, today he represents the AAP and in future he can represent the Congress.” Revenue Minister Bikram Singh Majithia followed up by declaring that the “people of Punjab will decide in the Lok Sabha elections as to who fought for the rights of the State.”
The first political jolt for the SAD came when the AAP announced the formation of a special investigation team (SIT) for the 1984 riots. It was not only welcomed in Punjab but was also widely seen as the handiwork of Mr. Phoolka who stood beside former Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal when the latter made the announcement in Delhi. The lawyer was nominated by the AAP from Ludhiana and has begun his election campaign in earnest with a ‘Jharoo Chalao’ yatra.
While reacting to Mr. Badal’s allegation, Mr. Phoolka said on Tuesday that he has served a defamation notice on the former for “levelling false allegations.”
“If Mr. Badal proves this allegation, I will quit politics and also the legal profession. And if Mr. Badal fails to prove it, he should quit the Akali Dal and the post of Deputy Chief Minister,” said Mr. Phoolka adding “such a person has no right to lead the Akali Dal.”