The peculiar case of the enforcement directorate (ED) serving summons to Mrs. Nalini Chidambaram is extremely disturbing because it shows that authorities, in their pursuit to create a case where none exists, will even go to the extent of questioning monies paid to a seasoned lawyer for providing legal services. No doubt that Mr. Sen (Sudipto) and his cohort, who are associated with the Sarada scam may not be the most desirable people to call for a dinner at home but such clients are a lawyer’s delight. Top lawyers in the country and around the world become famous by defending the notorious and those who are convicted a thousand times by the press and by public perception before any verdict is pronounced by any court of law.
It is a bizarre situation that the authorities in their desperate attempt to somehow implicate a senior lawyer are going to the extent of questioning why legal fees has been paid, notwithstanding that legal services were actually provided by the lawyer in consideration of the fees that was paid to the particular lawyer. This particular line of action by the authorities is very disturbing because there are top lawyers who are in public life in almost every national political party and if every lawyer is questioned as to why they have appeared for a high profile accused and charged fees, then that would not leave any good lawyer untouched. On the contrary, we should have been concerned had Mrs. Chidambaram not charged any fees and parted with legal service for free. Then that could have been a sign of worry as to why a top lawyer who is politically connected is doling out free legal services to the types of Sen and Sinh.
This peculiar case once again also reinforces the grand patriarchal mindset that we still live with. The crux of the entire discourse is how can a client pay such a high fee to a woman? The perception drawn is that the overwhelming identity of Mrs. Chidambaram should be that she is the wife of the then Finance Minister, P Chidambaram. It is presumptuously assumed that she has no identity of her own.
Such is the state of the patriarchal mindset that no one even bothers to check what a flourishing practice Mrs. Chidambaram had before 2004 and the credibility she continues to hold at the Bar after 2014. No one will tell you that Mrs. Chidambaram has been a much sought after lawyer for years before her husband even became a minister for the first time in 1985. No one will also tell you that she became the first ever woman to be designated as a Senior Lawyer by the Madras High Court.
Apparently Nalini Chidambaram took fees legally from Sarada via cheques for which TDS was deducted, and later reflected in her tax returns as well. The fees were paid over 1.5 years ago and not in one go and wasn’t a large sum by any imagination for a senior lawyer. The fee was apparently paid because of a MoU between Sudipto Sen and Manoranjana Sinh. The understanding was that Sen would fund the litigation of Sinh against her ex-husband Matang Sinh. Who pays on behalf of whom is a matter between Sen and Sinh and questioning a senior lawyer on this basis is disturbing. Every person however undesirable has a right to be represented by a lawyer of his liking. Every lawyer has a right to advise an accused regardless of the nature of the allegations made against the accused. If one starts questioning why a particular accused has instructed a particular lawyer and paid a particular fee, then that would go to the very root of our justice system, where the relationship between a lawyer and a client is treated as sacred, and one, which cannot be interfered with at any cost.
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