The Congress party was left red-faced on Wednesday when it was reported that the lawyer who was representing Christian Michel James, the middleman in Rs 3,600 crore VVIP chopper scam, in court was a member of Indian Youth Congress (IYC). The party quickly swung into action and expelled Aljo K Joseph with immediate effect.
Joseph, who was heading IYC’s legal department, told news agency ANI that his ties with Congress and profession are separate. Joseph said that he was appearing for Michel in his professional capacity as a lawyer and it should not be linked to his association with the Congress.
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“I am an actively practising advocate. I appeared for him (Michel) in my professional capacity… It has nothing to do with the Congress. One of my friends, who was having some Dubai connections…through him, the lawyer in Italy had requested it. So I was just helping in appearing and assisting him in this matter,” he said.
The decision about Joseph’s expulsion was announced by Youth Congress spokesperson Krishna Allavaru. He said that the IYC doesn’t endorse such actions and he has been removed.
“Aljo K Joseph appeared in his personal capacity. He did not consult the Youth Congress before appearing in the case. IYC has removed Aljo Joseph from IYC’s Legal Department and expelled him from the party with immediate effect,” he said.
A report in The Indian Express claimed that Joseph was involved in the training of Congress cadre and candidates in Madhya Pradesh where assembly election was held on November 28. It said that after arguing at a special CBI court on behalf of Michel on Wednesday, Joseph visited the Congress headquarters on Akbar Road where he met party’s general secretary in charge of Madhya Pradesh Deepak Babaria.
“He used to help us in preparing material for training our workers and candidates on EVMs and other poll-related activities,” Babaria told The Indian Express. He informed that on Thursday a meeting of candidates will be held in Bhopal where information related to counting of votes will be shared.
“I had called him to brief me on Election Commission guidelines,” he said.
On Joseph’s decision to argue for Michel in the court, he said, “He told me he was getting the brief….it was a professional assignment.”
When Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala was asked about party’s view on the matter, he sought to brush aside the query and accused the BJP of misleading the nation in the name of VVIP chopper deal.
“We (Congress) have nothing to do with it. I don’t know the person and I have no knowledge about it… this is for the IYC to say,” Surjewala said. “Prime Minister Narendra was making a loud noise to hide his own misdeeds,” he added.
Michel was among three wanted middlemen by Indian agencies in connection with the purchase of 12 VVIP chopper worth Rs 3,600 crore to ferry top politicians. However, the deal was mired into a controversy over reports of corruption and annulled in January 2014. Michel was extradited to India on Tuesday night from UAE. On Wednesday, a special CBI court sent him to five days of custody and directed the agency to quiz Michel till December 10.