Speculation on whether contents are intended to tarnish his and his son's image
The surreptitious surfacing of a compact disc containing an alleged phone conversation between senior advocate Shanti Bhushan; the former Samajwadi Party general secretary, Amar Singh; and the former Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister, Mulayam Singh Yadav, has raised suspicion in legal circles.
The CD was sent anonymously to a number of newspapers and TV channels, one of whose reporters brought it to the notice of Mr. Shanti Bhushan's son, Prashant Bhushan.
The junior Bhushan is also a top lawyer and has recently appeared before the Supreme Court in many high profile cases including the 2G spectrum scam and Amar Singh tapes matter.
Last month, a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly reserved judgment in the case of Amar Singh tapes, which Mr. Prashant Bhushan argued should be made public. In 2006, the Supreme Court had passed an order restraining the media from publishing the tapes, which contain conversations allegedly involving fixing of tenders and High Court Benches.
The present CD was released just prior to the first meeting of the joint committee tasked with drafting the anti-corruption Lokpal Bill. As both Bhushans are its members, there is speculation on whether the timing of the release of the CD and disclosure of its contents are intended to tarnish their image. The fact that the CD has been circulated before the court delivers its judgment in the Amar Singh tapes case has also raised suspicion that the intent is to pressure the judiciary in that matter.
Mr. Shanti Bhushan has already registered a case with the Delhi Police alleging that the CD, the contents of which are defamatory, has been fabricated. He has demanded that the issue be investigated immediately.
While reserving verdict in the Amar Singh tapes matter, the Bench headed by Justice Singhvi indicated that the gag would be lifted.
The Bench, after going through one of the transcripts, expressed shock at a conversation in which Mr. Amar Singh and the then Chief Minister talked about approaching the Chief Justice of the Allahabad High Court to allot a case to a Bench supposedly favourable to them. “[This is] absolutely murky. It is one of the darkest days of our democracy and the judiciary,” the Bench observed.
The case filed by Mr. Amar Singh in 2006 sought an inquiry, alleging that the Congress was using the tactic of phone interceptions against smaller parties. It subsequently emerged that the intercepts were conducted by Reliance Infocomm on the basis of a forged authorisation letter. The Bench indicated that Mr. Singh should seek a remedy from Reliance, and not the court.
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation, through Mr. Prashant Bhushan, had sought the court's direction for making the conversations public. Mr. Bhushan had expressed concern at the nature of conversations, which, he argued, were not at all personal since deals affecting the public interest were discussed.