Megha Distributors sells Bhutan Lottery in the South Indian state. It is now fighting a case in the state high court against the Kerala government decision to stop the illegal sale of Bhutan lottery there.
Without Bhutan’s permission, Megha has named RGoB as a direct party on behalf of Megha distributors in the Megha distributors Vs. the Kerala government case.
On September 29, the All India Congress Committee (AICC) spokesperson, senior congress leader and eminent lawyer, Abhishek Singhvi, appeared in the Kerala high court to argue on behalf of Megha Distributors claiming he was representing the Royal Government of Bhutan in the case and was their counsel.However, Business Bhutan has found that RGoB is not a party to the case and so has not hired any lawyer. Bhutan government’s role was limited to only signing an affidavit saying that Monica Distributors is the main agent of Bhutan and Megha distributors is Bhutan’s agent in Kerala.
The director of the Directorate of Lottery Yeshey Lhendup, with approval from the Ministry of Finance had gone to Kerala last week to sign such an affidavit. He said, “I only signed an affidavit saying that Megha is our distributors in Kerala but we have not hired any lawyer nor authorized anyone to hire a lawyer since we are not a party to the case.”
In fact, when the Kerala government asked Megha Distributors for a copy of the agreement proving that Megha Distributors was representing Bhutan, Lawyer Abhishek Singhvi claimed they could not show the agreement as it was a commercial document.
Damija, the CEO of Martin Lottery Agencies, which is the parent company of Megha Distributors told Business Bhutan over phone from Chennai, “The Bhutan government has signed a wakalat (affidavit) authorizing the hiring of a local advocate and that local advocate had hired Abhishek Singhvi.”
However, the lottery directorate and the finance ministry denied any such authorization.
When Business Bhutan contacted the Bhutan Embassy in New Delhi, an official said the Embassy was not aware of RGOB hiring any lawyer. As per procedure, a government agency can hire a lawyer in India through the foreign ministry and the Bhutan Embassy in India.
Business Bhutan also found that as per the original lottery agreement signed between Monica Distributors and RGOB in 2007, the distributor has “to indemnify (protect) the government against any financial and legal liabilities on account of violation of relevant laws and rules in force in Bhutan and India and all such claims that are solely attributable to the sole purchaser.”
This, in short, shows that the RGOB will not have any legal or financial responsibility which solely lies with the distributor.
The appearance of a senior Congress leader on behalf of Megha Distributors has embarrassed the congress party of Kerala who until now had been accusing the ruling Communist party-led government of colluding with the lottery mafia which in this case was Megha distributors.
On his first day in court, Abhishek Singhvi was heckled by Kerala Youth Congress workers when he argued for around 90 minutes on behalf of Megha Distributors. There were more red faces in the Kerala Congress when he showed up again on Thursday to claim that he was representing the RGoB in court against the Kerala government. Abhishek Singhvi had earlier said he was in court not as a Congress leader but in his personal capacity as an advocate for the RGoB.
Senior Congress leaders spoke up against Singhvi and complained to the Congress national leadership following which Singhvi said he is withdrawing from the case.
Earlier in court, Abhishek Singhvi had said that Monica Distributors is the all India agent for Bhutan Lottery and Megha Distributors was the agent for Kerala based on the affidavit signed by the Bhutan government. He said that Bhutan Lottery was being printed in security presses and the printing costs were borne by Bhutan.
The Kerala high court on September 30 instructed the Kerala government to collect advance taxes from Megha distributors but forbade the sale of Bhutan Lottery tickets in Kerala until another hearing scheduled on Monday.
Singhvi claiming to represent Bhutan is an effort to provide cover to embattled Megha Distributors to hide behind the RGOB.
Early this week, Kerala revenue officials in a fact-finding meeting asked Megha Distributors to produce the original copy of their agreement with RGoB proving they were the promoters. Megha Distributors officials walked out of the meeting saying they cannot provide the document.