Haryana Paid Rs 5.5 Crore as Legal Fees For a Single Case

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Haryana Paid Rs 5.5 Crore as Legal Fees For a Single Case

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Senior counsel KTS Tulsi, appointed as Special Public Prosecutor by the previous Haryana govermment in the Maruti case, charged Rs 11 lakh for a single appearance, according to an RTI response

New Delhi:  To fight high-profile cases, state and Central governments often hire senior lawyers.

But the previous Haryana government under chief minister Bhupinder Singh Hooda of the Congress was billed an unusually high amount - a whopping Rs 5.5 crore - to prosecute workers accused of violence at Maruti's plant in Manesar, in the western part of the state.

More than 150 workers were arrested - almost all are still in jail - in an outbreak of violence at the Manesar plant of the carmaker in 2012, in
which one manager was killed.

A Right to Information (RTI) application accessed by NDTV has revealed that senior counsel and now Congress Rajya Sabha MP KTS Tulsi was appointed by the state as a Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the Maruti case.

Mr Tulsi charged Rs 11 lakh per appearance in the Gurgaon Additional District and Sessions Court.

The RTI reply also details other fees, including that of Mr Tulsi's three assistants - Rs 66,000 for each appearance - and "clerkage" of over Rs 1 lakh for his expenses - a total of over Rs 5 crore in just two years.

Mr Tulsi, who has been a Congress Rajya Sabha MP since February 2014, said the violence had caused great alarm in Manesar, the state's industrial hub, and that he was approached by the Haryana government to represent it.

But even for a high-profile case, that is a large sum for any government to pay as legal fees to its special prosecutors, especially for a trial in a lower court. In contrast to Mr Tulsi's fees, the special prosecutor in the coal scam case is paid approximately Rs 33,000 for each hearing.

When NDTV persisted with its questions about his fees, Mr Tulsi lost his temper. "I don't want to discuss my fees," he snapped and added: "I will not let you discuss it. It was an agreement between the Haryana government and me. I don't have to justify it."

Vrinda Grover, who represents the Maruti workers in the Supreme Court, said it was hard to see how such a major expense was in public interest. "It's the choice of the state who it appoints as SPP, but to use public money for a sum such as this, we can look around to see if that is appropriate," she said. The Haryana Congress couldn't be reached for comment.

The new BJP government in Haryana says hiring Mr Tulsi is an example of the old regime's excesses. "The government has its own battery of 85 law officers," said Bhupeshwar Dayal, Officer on Special Duty to Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar. "Yet, a questionable amount of money was paid to KTS Tulsi by the Hooda government. We're looking into it."

In December last year, Mr Tulsi was dropped from the case. Even as the previous administration is asked to justify spending such an unprecedented amount of public funds on trying its own workers, the BJP must decide on whether Mr Tulsi will get the remainder of his dues - Rs 65 lakh - still owed for his services.

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