What's the controversy over Sushma Swaraj and Lalit Modi: Explained

New Delhi, June 15: Controversy over Sushma Swaraj and Lalit Modi made headlines on Sunday, June 14. A day after the "breaking news", Congress has intensified its demand for the resignation of the External Affairs Minister.

Congress senior leader and former union minister Salman Khurshid said that Sushma Swaraj should give an explanation regarding her decision of helping Lalit Modi, who has been residing in London since 2010.

Sushma Swaraj

A brief recollection of what led to the controversy:

  • Lalit Modi has been avoiding an investigation against him in India.
  • He claimed that he faces threat to his life in India.
  • He allegedly had flouted rules of foreign exchange regulation during IPL 2009.
  • Lalit Modi was the Commissioner of IPL when the T20 cricket tournament was held in South Africa.
  • Citing opposition from Modi for the investigation, UPA government at the Centre revoked his passport and had pressed for his extradition.
  • The UPA govt also told British govt that India-UK relation would get affected if the latter help Modi.

What did Lalit Modi do to travel outside UK?

  • Lalit Modi did not have a valid passport as UPA government had revoked that.
  • Hence, he had challenged the then central govt's decision in Delhi High Court.
  • He also asked the British Government for a travel document.
  • In 2014, Modi asked the British Govt for a travel document to be able to travel to Portugal.
  • His wife has been suffering from breast cancer and she was scheduled to go for a surgery in Portugal on Aug 4, 2014.

Allegations against Sushma Swaraj:

  • A TV news channel disclosed an email chain which showed that Swaraj had spoken to Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz.
  • Swaraj, the external affair minister, told Vaz that British Govt can follow its laws and rules in such a situation.
  • The minister also told that India-UK relation will not get affected if the latter issues travel documents to Lalit Modi.
  • Vaz allegedly cited Swaraj's name to put pressure on UK's top immigration official to grant British travel papers to Lalit Modi.
  • The former commissioner of IPL reportedly had received the documents in less than 24 hours.
  • Vaz also offered to help Swaraj's nephew Jyotirmay Kaushal to apply for a British law degree course.

How did Sushma Swaraj defend herself?

  • Swaraj in her statement said, "if the British government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi - that will not spoil our bilateral relations".
  • "What benefit did I pass on to Lalit Modi - that he could sign consent papers for surgery of his wife suffering from Cancer?... He was in London. After his wife's surgery, he came back to London. What is it that I changed?"
  • Regarding her nephew's admission, Swaraj tweeted, "Regarding Jyotirmay Kaushal's admission in a law course at Sussex University, he secured admission through the normal admission."

What did Prashant Bhushan say?

Senior advocate and former Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader Prashant Bhushan on Monday, June 15, said, "Sushma Swaraj interceded with the British government at a time when her daughter was Lalit Modi's lawyer."

He was also quoted as saying, "This was, in my view, totally inappropriate. And, in fact there should be conflict of interest laws in this country which make it a offence for a person who is a public servant to do an official act in favour of a person from whom you or your family are receiving any benefit."

"Since her daughter was receiving some fees from him, therefore, it was inappropriate for her to act in her official capacity on his behalf," he added.

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