High drama prevailed outside the Calcutta High Court on Wednesday as a group of lawyers, who claimed themselves as Congress loyalists, protested against veteran party leader and senior advocate P Chidambaram after he defended a move by the Bengal government.
Some reports said the former union minister was also heckled by lawyers while he was leaving the court premises.
Chidambaram was representing a respondent in a petition seeking probe into sale of shares of Metro Dairy by the West Bengal government to agro-processing firm Keventer.
Alleging that Chidambaram is playing with the sentiment of the Congress party, the lawyers claimed that it was not appropriate for him to represent a respondent in the matter when West Bengal Congress chief Adhir Chowdhury is fighting the case challenging the Trinamool Congress government’s sale of shares of Metro Dairy to the private company.
Videos from the site showed the miffed lawyers shouting slogans of “Chidambaram go back,” while holding leaders like him responsible for the Congress’ downfall.
One of the participants in the protest, lawyer Kaustav Bagchi told PTI that the former Union Finance Minister was appearing in the case in which purchase of shares by a private entity was being objected to by the West Bengal Pradesh Congress Committee president.
“Mr Chidambaram is a CWC (Congress Working Committee) member and a very important leader,” Bagchi said. He said he led the protest “as a Congress worker” and not as a lawyer and added that party workers will met out similar treatment to any leader who acts against the interests of Congress in West Bengal.
In a plea filed before the high court, Chowdhury, had requested a probe into the sale of the share of Metro Dairy allegedly at a throwaway price.
Alleging that the interest of the state was adversely affected by the sale, Chowdhury’s lawyer Bikash Bhattacharya claimed that Keventer had sold a part of the shares to a Singapore-based company soon after at a much higher price. The state has claimed before the court that it has fairly sold the shares to Keventer and there was no irregularity in it and the argument was supported by the company.
The matter was fixed for further hearing on Thursday by a division bench presided by Chief Justice Prakash Shrivastava, before which the matter is being argued.
Chidambaram’s representation of Keventer is what left Congressmen fuming.
Chowdhury, when contacted by PTI, said that the protest was a “natural” reaction from some Congress supporters. “I have heard that some Congress supporters present at Calcutta High Court protested. I believe this was their natural reaction,” Chowdhury said from Berhampore.
On party colleague Chidambaram fighting the case, Chowdhury said that in a professional world one has the right to choose his or her options.
“It’s a professional world. It depends on the person… nobody can dictate him or her,” he added.
When contacted by PTI, an amused Chidambaram said, “It’s a free country. I have no comments… Why should I comment on this.”
(With inputs from agencies)