Former Tehelka scribe's plea for proper reimbursement rejected

A journalist's plea for direction to the government to adequately reimburse his expenses for appearing as a witness in a corruption case involving former BJP President Bangaru Laxman has been rejected by the Delhi High Court.

Dismissing the plea of journalist Mathew Samuel, who worked earlier with Tehelka magazine, a bench of Chief Justice D Murugesan and Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw said, "You should have made the request to the concerned authority. For all these years you were silent and now you want a court order at this stage."

While working with the Tehelka newsportal in May 2001, Samuel had conducted the sting operation named "Operation West End", exposing the corruption in defence deals.

The sting had yielded video footage purportedly showing Laxman accepting cash to recommend to the Defence Ministry to purchase a fictitious defence equipment for Army from a fake firm.

In his plea, Samuel, who presently resides in Kerala, had said he has spent 11 years attending various courts, the commissions of enquiry, departmental proceedings, court martial proceedings as a prosecution witness in 12 criminal cases registered by the CBI and also other proceedings but he has been paid only a meagre amount under the Delhi Criminal Court (payment of expenses to complainant and witnesses) Rules.

"In view of the daily attendance required as a witness, the petitioner (Samuel) is not in a position to take up any job of permanent nature....," he said in his plea.

Samuel said the existing system of payment of expenses to the prosecution witness in criminal cases, commissions of enquiry , departmental proceedings, court martial proceedings is "inadequate".

"The amount paid for expenses has no relationship with the actual expenses incurred by the witnesses," he said.

He said as per the rule, for the full day hearing, he is entitled to Rs 275 only which includes his travelling expenses and food.

The journalist sought a direction to the Delhi government and the Centre to pay expenses he had incurred in attending legal proceedings at various fora.

"Declare that Delhi Criminal Court (payment of expenses to complainant and witnesses) Rules is grossly inadequate and pass further direction to revise the same in accordance with just expenses being incurred by the non official witnesses for the state in the interest of justice," Samuel had said seeking an order to the government to frame guidelines on the issue.

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