Probe into TV sting in BMW case, veteran lawyer quits


New Delhi : A Delhi court Thursday ordered a probe into a sting operation by a TV news channel, which alleged collusion between the prosecution and defence attorneys in the 1999 BMW hit-and-run case and prompted a veteran criminal lawyer to quit the proceedings.

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These developments came a day after NDTV telecast its sting operation alleging that the prosecution and defence counsels were together in trying to bribe the sole witness to change his testimony and save Sanjeev Nanda, accused of killing six people on a Delhi pavement while driving a BMW car in a drunken state.

The sting has prompted veteran criminal lawyer I.U. Khan to quit as public prosecutor in the case.

The court of Additional Sessions Judge Vinod Kumar Thursday ordered a probe following allegations by Khan that the sting operation by the NDTV was "mischievous" with all its videotapes "fabricated and doctored".

Judge Kumar ordered NDTV to submit to the court by Friday afternoon all the visuals and audiotapes recorded by it for the sting operation, besides the names of all the reporters and journalists involved in the sting operation.

The court, while ordering a probe into the truth behind the sting operation, also acceded Khan's request to withdraw as prosecution counsel in the infamous BMW case.

With Khan quitting the case, assistant public prosecutor Vineet Malhortra has also withdrawn himself from the case. Malhotra had been appointed by Delhi Police to assist Khan.

Advocate Rajeev Mohan has been appointed as the public prosecutor in the case.

In the eye of a storm after the sting operation was telecast, a haggard-looking Khan, known for his acumen as a criminal lawyer, assiduously tried to give the lie to the aspersions cast on him.

He told the court that he had never directed witness Sunil Kulkarni to meet defence counsel R.K. Anand, also a former Rajya Sabha member from Jharkhand.

Referring to his statement in the NDTV visual footage asking Kulkarni if he had met "Bade Saheb", Khan told the court that it was well-known in legal circles that Anand was known as the "boss" and not as "Bade Saheb".

Khan told the court that the visual footage clearly showed even Kulkarni addressing Anand as "Boss" while haggling on how much money he should charge for changing his deposition in favour of Sanjeev Nanda.

Significantly enough, Khan submitted to Judge Kumar a statement by Kulkarni, recorded in Kumar's courtroom during deposition, in which the witness refers to senior police officers as "Bade Saheb".

Imputing a motive of revenge to NDTV, Khan told the court that "he was being victimised" for not acceding to its reporter Poonam Aggaarwal's request to give her the case diary and some other prosecution documents and help her in doing another story.

He told the court that as he did not part with the prosecution documents, the reporter had threatened that he should be prepared to face the consequences.

This warning by the reporter had prompted him to send a legal notice to NDTV April 19, to which the channel replied April 26 expressing regret over the episode, said Khan.

He added that he had sent copies of the legal notice to police and the Press Council of India, turning it into a complaint against the channel.

Questioning the journalistic credentials of the particular NDTV reporter, Khan apprised the court that "she had also been hauled up repeatedly by the court of another additional sessions judge, Ravinder Kaur, for misreporting the court proceedings".

The prosecution had earlier dropped Kulkarni as an "unreliable witness", suspecting that he had been won over by the accused, while Kulkarni had alleged that he was under immense pressure from police to turn hostile.

On March 19 this year, judge Kumar, using his powers to recall a witness, had summoned Kulkarni to depose in the case. This had been challenged by Sanjeev Nanda in the high court.

Kulkarni subsequently approached NDTV alleging that he was under pressure from both the prosecution and defence counsels to turn hostile in the case and helped the news channel conduct the sting operation to prove that an unholy nexus existed between the prosecution and defence in high-profile cases involving the rich and mighty.

And so the BMW case rages on. Sanjeev Nanda, the grandson of former navy chief Admiral S.M. Nanda, allegedly mowed down six people sleeping on Delhi's Lodhi Road pavement in the wee hours of Jan 10, 1999, while driving the BMW car.