image courtesy:ABP Live

With the crucial MCD elections less than a week away, Delhi Chief Minister has landed himself in yet another controversy. According to media reports, the Delhi CM has sent his lawyer Ram Jethmalani’s bills amounting to Rs 3.42 crores for clearance to Lt Governor Anil Baijal’s office, hinting at a probable burden on the taxpayers in Delhi.

Union finance minister Arun Jaitley has filed a criminal defamation complaint against Kejriwal for allegedly defaming him in the Patiala House Court, while a civil defamation case was filed in the Delhi High Court.

Lawyer Ram Jethmalani has said that if Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cannot afford to pay his fee, he will not charge the politician to defend him in court.

Venting his ire over reports suggesting that Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal has sought Solicitor General Ranjit Kumar’s advice in clearing the bills, the veteran lawyer said they are all in Jaitley’s control. Jethmalani further said that he charges only the rich clients.

“I will certainly defend him even if he can’t pay, but he said ‘no, I want to pay, send us the bills’, so I have sent bills. If it is incumbent on me to support him and his livelihood I will support him, because he is a clean force as opposed to Arun Jaitley,” said Mr Jethmalani, who is 93 and was expelled by the Finance Minister’s party, the BJP, four years ago.

Jethmalani further said that he charges only the rich clients. “Everybody knows this in this country that I charge only the rich, but for poor people I do work free and the poor people are about 90 percent of my client,” he said.

Jethmalani is defending Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) supremo Kejriwal in both a criminal and a civil defamation case filed by Jaitley.

The case against Mr Kejriwal was filed in 2015 and accuses him of making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption against the Finance Minister related to the period when he headed the Delhi and District Cricket Association or DDCA, the main cricket administration body for Delhi and its surrounding areas.

Kejriwal had employed a string of lawyers, including Ram Jethmalani, who alone raised a bill of Rs 1 crore. According to sources , the bill raised by Jethmalani on 1 December, 2016, quotes Rs 1 crore retainer for representing Kejriwal and an additional Rs 22 lakh per appearance. He has so far made 11 appearances, which totals to Rs 3.42 crore.

In December, Mr Kejriwal’s deputy, Manish Sisodia had asked for releasing appearance fee to lawyer Ram Jethmalani, sources said. Sisodia had signed off on the legal bills and sent them for clearance to Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor Anil Baijal, who has sought the opinion of experts on how to proceed.

According to the Law Department of Delhi Government,Lt Governor Anil Baijal’s permission for clearing the bills was necessary.They further said that the amount of pending dues of Rs 3 crore to the noted lawyer and the Law Department had opinionated as to why should Delhi Government foot the bills when the case is nowhere related to the city administration.

AAP says that the government should pay the bill because the case targets the office of the Chief Minister, and not an individual.