NDA’s presidential nominee Ram Nath Kovind was the only one from the Bharatiya Janata Party to have appeared as a defence witness in the CBI case against BJP national president Bangaru Laxman. Kovind was one of the two defence witnesses produced by the former BJP president.
Laxman was convicted in 2012 and sent to jail for accepting a bribe of ₹ one lakh from journalists masquerading as defence dealers, in a sting operation for influencing a fake defence deal to expose corruption. He was released on bail a few months later and died in 2014.
Kovind deposed in court that he knew Bangaru Laxman for the past 20 years and described the former BJP president as a ‘straight forward, simple and honest person, who became President of Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP)’. He told the court that he had met Laxman after Zee TV aired footage of the sting operation, which was surreptitiously shot by journalists Mathew Samuel and Aniruddha Bahal. Laxman had then claimed that he had been ‘framed’.
Kovind, however, denied any knowledge whether Laxman had actually received the amount shown in the footage. He also denied any meeting of senior BJP leaders in which a face saving mechanism was discussed and it was proposed that the amount be shown as part of party fund.
He also conceded that in November 2002, Congress leader Kapil Sibal had alleged in Parliament that the government had compromised constitutional institutions by offering Justice Venkataswami, who was heading a commission of inquiry into the allegation against Laxman, an appointment as Chairman of Advance Rulings on Customs and Excise.
The Special CBI court in its order recorded that accused Bangaru Laxman had on Jan 5, 2001, accepted illegal gratification of ₹ one lakh from Mathew Samuel, as Chief Liasioning Officer of M/s Westend International and had further agreed to accept the balance amount of illegal gratification in dollars as reward for influencing public servants working with Ministry of Defence.