BJP's bid to corner SIT in High Court to bail out BL Santosh flops

There seems to be more anxiety and fear in the BJP ranks than that meets the eye in its desperate attempts to secure legal immunity for BL Santosh

Bommrabettu Laxmijanardhana Santosh

HYDERABAD: There seems to be more anxiety and fear in the BJP ranks than that meets the eye as far as its desperate attempts to secure legal immunity for its beleaguered leader Bommrabettu Laxmijanardhana Santosh are concerned. A sense of apprehension and insecurity is palpable among the leaders of the saffron party at a time when the noose is seemingly tightening around the neck of its national secretary in connection with the case of alleged attempt to poach four TRS MLAs.

Dealing a big blow to the BJP's frantic attempts to help BL Santosh wriggle out of this mess, the Telangana High Court on November 19 refused to stay the notice of the Telangana Special Investigation Team (SIT) to its leader. The High Court gave the interim order while listing the petition on November 29 for further hearing. The writ petition was filed on behalf of the BJP by its Telangana leader Gujjula Premender Reddy. Senior advocate V Chitambaresh argued on behalf of the petitioner.

What hasn't really caught everyone's eye was the approach adopted by the BJP's counsel, signifying some fluidity in its stand on the whole issue. For those who could discern the court proceedings, it gave the impression that the BJP was more worried of the prospect of an imminent arrest of BL Santosh than a possible round of questioning as a fallout of the SIT notice. Its so-called legal battle was largely intended to stonewall a possible arrest by creating obstacles for the SIT in courts.

This, according to legal analysts, was evident from BJP counsel's arguments for complete relief initially and then retracting from this position by not pressing for a full relief.

In a nutshell, as some legal experts perceive, the BJP went all out to try and win the High Court's favour and ensure that the SIT was straight-jacketed in its probe. But this plan came a cropper with the High Court steering clear of it while refusing to stay the SIT notice.

According to legal experts, the relief that the BJP sought from the High Court through its writ petition was to stay the notice itself. But as it transpired during arguments, the petitioner's counsel not only reportedly withdrew the prayer to this effect but only focused on protection for BL Santosh from a possible arrest, which clearly was the basis for their apprehension. The counsel for SIT had no qualms in agreeing to it as they maintained that the arrest, for the moment, was unforeseeable since the notice served was under Section 41(A) of the CrPC.

They, however, contended that BL Santosh had to be investigated for his alleged involvement in the case.

Another aspect that glaringly highlighted the BJP's premonitions on a possible arrest was its contention that SIT should seek permission from the single judge at every stage of its investigation. The BJP's counsel sought to invoke the earlier High Court Division Bench order to interpret that SIT should have followed this procedure even for the issuance of the notice. Rebutting this, the counsel for the SIT termed this contention as 'out of context' since the investigation of the SIT was going on strictly in accordance with the order of the division bench.

Echoing the same, the High Court, in its ruling, rejected the argument of the petitioner's counsel and instead asked the petitioner to seek a clarification from the division bench. It also directed BL Santosh to comply with the entire notice.

*Santhosh may still skip attending SIT probe*

However, B L Santhosh May not attend the SIT investigation, as BJP sources indicated that he did not receive the notices. Santhosh is purportedly "busy with" Gujarat elections. He skipped the party's training classes also on Sunday. However, legal experts were exploring the opportunity of going in for an appeal against the High Court order and approaching the Supreme Court seeking exemption for him. Sources indicated that the BJP top brass was also contemplating seeking a blanket stay on the SIT probe in Supreme Court.

The BJP sources said that "as of now" only Advocate Srinivas received the summons from the SIT and he would comply with the same.

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