New Delhi: There is a common thread that runs through majority of courtroom tussles that Congress has had to face. Whether it be the bail secured for party leaders Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi or ensuring a floor test for Harish Rawat-led Congress in Uttarakhand, one person has always been the trusted legal aide for the grand old party: Dr Abhishekh Manu Singhvi.
Fronting a three-hour long marathon pre-dawn hearing, senior advocate Singhvi did not leave any stone unturned to avoid the debacle faced by the Congress in Goa and Manipur.
Singhvi has always been put at the forefront in matters that require immediate arguments and legal war.
In 2016, the Uttarakhand High Court had ordered a floor test in the Assembly to resolve the political crisis and determine which party has majority in the House. This was in response to a plea that challenged the president’s rule imposed by the Centre.
Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi who had then argued the case had elaborated on the arguments and had stated: “The high court has passed an order which, according to us, accepts the point that despite President's Rule, there is enough scope for judicial review to allow the floor test. The floor test was called for on the basis of past precedents of the Supreme Court.”
Singhvi again came into the limelight when the Congress decided to move an impeachment motion against the Chief Justice of India Dipak Misra. Singhvi had said that the reason for the non-elevation of Justice KM Joseph to the SC was because of his judgment in the Uttarakhand case.
Now, with the SC ordering a floor test in Karnataka tomorrow itself, this battle too was fronted by senior Advocate Singhvi.
Singhvi had kept the petition ready in case the Governor did invite Yeddyurappa, the leader of the single largest party, and overlooked the claims of the Congress-Janata Dal(S) alliance which had the numbers.
It was only the second time that the Supreme Court was holding an overnight hearing and Singhvi was fronting the Congress’ stand. The first such overnight hearing tool place in July 2015 when the top court held a 90-minute hearing in the middle of the night to hear a last-minute petition against the execution of Yakub Memon for his role in the 1993 Mumbai blasts case.
"The Governor can't negate democracy... The other side has 104 members and this side, 116... It is elementary common sense on numbers (which one is greater)," Abhishek Singhvi told the three-judge bench.
Born on 24 February 1959 in Jodhpur to LM Singhvi and Hindi writer Kamla Baid, Abhishek Singhvi has a distinguished academic record. He completed his high school from St Columba's School, Delhi. He then got a Master's from St Stephen's College, a Ph.D from Trinity College, Cambridge and a Public International Law (PIL) from Harvard University, USA. He completed his PhD under the tutelage of constitutional lawyer Sir William Wade of Cambridge University. His chosen topic for his doctoral thesis at Cambridge University was Emergency Powers.
But Singhvi’s career was not always filled with legal glory. In 2012, the senior lawyer had to face a serious allegation of being involved in a sex tape.
The then Congress spokesperson and chairman of the prestigious parliamentary standing committee on law and justice, Singhvi launched a preventive strike by resigning from both the posts in an attempt to "prevent Parliament from being stalled".
"I have done this only to prevent even the slightest possible parliamentary disruption regarding the purported CDs being circulated about me. Since I am a disciplined party soldier, I did not think it fit to subject the party to any inconvenience on this account. All allegations are patently baseless and false," Singhvi had then said in a statement.
He was also put in a spot recently when the BJP tried to link him to the Nirav Modi scam. In February, Sitharaman claimed that Firestar Diamond International, a company run by Nirav Modi, had taken a property on lease from Adwait Holdings, trying to imply that Singhvi had some connection to Modi. Singhvi’s wife and sons are directors at Adwait Holdings and own properties across Mumbai.
To this Singhvi, in a tweet, clarified that as per law, a landlord would never have any interest in a business run by its tenant.
“God save India’s defence preparedness if Defence Minister of India thinks landlords of parties to Nirav co tenancies - including showrooms across India - are complicit cos of Nirav scams (sic),” read Singhvi’s response.
Singhvi has the unique distinction of being the youngest person to be appointed/elected Senior Advocate, Additional Solicitor General (ASG) of India and Vice-President, Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA); he has appeared in several cases that saw landmark decisions of the Supreme Court on Constitutional Law, Commercial Law and several other areas of Civil Law.
But it’s not always the Supreme Court or High court that Singhvi has fought battles in for the Congress party.
Just when former finance minister, P Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram faced a catena of allegations in the INX Media case which accused him of financial misappropriation, Singhvi appeared in the court of Sunil Rana in Patiala House Court and argued in daily hearings.
Karti is “not a Hindustan leaver. He is a Hindustan returner”, Singhvi had said, taking a dig at the CBI in a possible reference to its investigations into the scams involving Vijay Mallya and Nirav Modi. In a cheeky statement, he had also remarked that “ASG Tushar Mehta might not be used to appearing anywhere apart from the SC, but I am used to the procedure here.”
Later Singhvi, along with other Congress lawyer, was successful in securing bail for Karti from the Delhi High Court.
This was not all, Singhvi had also been involved in bailing out the top Congress leaders from the lower court too in 2015.
The case, filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy, accused the Gandhis and four others of forming a company with the intention of acquiring property belonging to the now defunct newspaper National Herald that was founded by Jawaharlal Nehru. The seventh entity summoned in the case is Young Indian, the company formed by them, in which the Gandhis own 76% shares.
Singhvi, then appearing for the Gandhis, had aggressively countered the allegations against them as political vendetta and had managed to secure an immediate bail.
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