New Delhi: BJP MP Subramanian Swamy is often heard criticising his party colleague and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley for a variety of reasons. But this isn’t a recent phenomenon — it began in the early 1990s with an unpaid dues case Swamy won against IIT-Delhi this Monday.
Two days after a local court ruled in his favour, Swamy publicly accused Jaitley of sabotaging his case, because the latter was initially one of the lawyers for IIT-Delhi in the case.
“The salary delay was due to the 1993 letter written by Jaitely (sic) to IIT Delhi advising IIT/D to deduct my Harvard salary from my dues, on erroneous law. It encouraged IIT commies to obstruct me. That advice was nullified by Smriti Irani, Jawadekar& PMO in 2017,” Swamy tweeted Wednesday.
What was the case?
Swamy taught economics at IIT-Delhi between 1969 and 1972 before joining active politics. He was sacked in 1972 and was reinstated in 1991. He resigned a day later and decided to take the IIT to court, filing a civil suit asking for the salary dues between 1972 to 1991. Ram Jethmalani was the lawyer for IIT-Delhi, and his legal assistant at the time was Jaitley.
According to sources in IIT-Delhi, Jethmalani and Jaitley had advised the institute to use a service rule that would prevent it from paying the full dues to Swamy. They cited Financial Rule 54 or FR 54 of the union government, under which IIT-Delhi would have to only pay the difference between Swamy’s dues and his earnings at Harvard, where he taught after being removed from IIT-Delhi.
A senior official in the institute confirmed Jaitley’s involvement in the case.
“Jaitley was also associated with the case as a legal counsel. The bone of contention in the case has always been that we have been asking him (Swamy) to declare his earnings from Harvard and he has been refusing to do so,” the official said.
“A government servant cannot hold two positions at the same time, and he was teaching at Harvard after being sacked from IIT, hence we asked him for his earnings.”
According to his lawyer, Swamy argued that FR 54 did not apply to his case. He argued that he was on Extraordinary Leave, which means he does not need to declare his salary. He also argued that if IIT were to pay the difference between his dues and his Harvard salary, he would actually have to pay money to the IIT, instead of the institute paying him his dues.
In April last year, the Ministry of Human Resource Development tried to intervene in the matter. It wrote a letter to the IIT saying that FR 54 would not be applicable in Swamy’s case and nudged the institute to go for an out-of-court settlement.
The local court in its order also maintained that FR 54 is not applicable in Swamy’s case.
“After having decided the issue that Rule 54A is not applicable in this case, the claim (of) the plaintiff has been examined which has been submitted in the form of ‘due statement’ making a claim of Rs. 8,58,585/ being the amount due as arrears. The plaintiff has claimed that he was entitled to charge rate of inflation on this amount from the date due till the filing of suit. In this regard, it may be mentioned that the matter has been kept in abeyance not at the instance of either defendant or plaintiff exclusively and in such event the defendant cannot be saddened with liability of inflation,” the court order read.
Swamy’s attacks on Jaitley
Swamy has openly criticised Jaitley’s economic policies, saying he does not understand what language Jaitley speaks and that it is “definitely not economics”.
In October 2018, when the internal battle in the Central Bureau of Investigation was at its peak, Swamy targeted Jaitley and some top officials in the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).
“The Gang of Four may presently swear by Namo but their aim is to structure the head ships of key institutions especially CBI ED IT RAW RBI etc by March 2019 to prepare, if BJP gets less than 220 LS seats, to foist a Congi friendly insider patron as PM: Coup d’état in the making,” he said.
By referring to the ‘gang of four’, Swamy seemed to indicate how those close to Modi may harm him.
In June 2016, Jaitley had urged Swamy to be restrained and disciplined after he attacked then chief economic adviser Arvind Subramanian as well as economic affairs secretary Shaktikanta Das, who is now the governor of the RBI.
“People giving me unasked for advice of discipline and restraint don’t realise that if I disregard discipline there would be a bloodbath,” he tweeted in an obvious counter to Jaitley.
The BJP leadership was said to be upset with Swamy after his “bloodbath” remark.