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Swaraj in Lalit Modi visa controversy, defends action

Sushma Swaraj 1

New Delhi: External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj’s name has been dragged into the controversy surrounding grant of visa to former IPL chief Lalit Modi by the UK where the matter is before a parliamentary panel.

Modi, who has made London his base and avoided coming to India where there is a look-out notice for him for alleged misappropriation of funds in the T20 cricket tournament, was given a visa after Indian-origin British MP Keith Vaz had recommended his name for the same.

According to British media, Vaz cited the name of Swaraj to put pressure on UK’s top immigration official to grant British travel papers to Lalit Modi.

Swaraj today explained her actions saying she took a “humanitarian view” and conveyed to the British High Commissioner that they should examine Modi’s request as per their rules and “if the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi  – that will not spoil our bilateral relations”.

Giving the chronology of events, she said on Twitter, “Sometime in July 2014, Lalit Modi spoke to me that his wife was suffering from Cancer and her surgery was fixed for 4th August in Portugal. He told me that he had to be present in the hospital to sign the consent papers.

“He informed me that he had applied for travel documents in London and the UK Government was prepared to give him the travel documents. However, they were restrained by a UPA Government communication that this will spoil Indo-UK relations.

“Taking a humanitarian view, I conveyed to the British High Commissioner that: “British Government should examine the request of Lalit Modi as per British rules and regulations. If the British Government chooses to give travel documents to Lalit Modi  – that will not spoil our bilateral relations.”

“Keith Vaz also spoke to me and I told him precisely what I told the British High Commissioner.

“I genuinely believe that in a situation such as this, giving emergency travel documents to an Indian citizen cannot and should not spoil relations between the two countries,” she said.

“I may also state that only few days later, Delhi High Court quashed the UPA Government’s order impounding Lalit Modi’s passport on the ground that the said order was unconstitutional being violative of fundamental rights and he got his passport back,” Swaraj said.

On Vaz reportedly offering to help Swaraj’s nephew to apply for a British law degree course, she said, “Regarding Jyotirmay Kaushal’s admission in a Law course at Sussex University, he secured admission through the normal admission process in 2013 – one year before I became a Minister.”

Conservative MP Andrew Bridgen has written to Kathryn Hudson, the UK parliamentary standards commissioner, urging her to investigate whether Vaz had breached the MPs’ code of conduct.

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