Hyderabad: Who is Bharat Kumar? Who? Bharat Kumar!
And why did Raju pick him instead of hiring better known lawyers, any of whom would have been more than willing to represent him?
Those were the three most common responses last week from journalists and lawyers, after Hyderabad lawyer Bharat Kumar announced that he would be representing B. Ramalinga Raju, the former chairman of Satyam Computer Services Ltd who shocked the world last week when he disclosed that he had fudged Satyam’s books to the tune of Rs7,136 crore.
“I have never heard of Bharat Kumar taking on such a high-profile case in the past 20 years,” said a Hyderabad-based corporate lawyer, who did not want to be identified.
Right counsel? Bharat Kumar refused to comment on the clients he has represented or now represents, and declined to speak about himself. Mahesh Kumar A. / AP
Kumar himself refused to comment on the clients he has represented and represents and declined to speak about himself citing a lack of interest in “media visibility”. He also added that he was just a “face and voice” of a larger team of lawyers.
“A team of 25 eminent legal professionals comprising prominent senior lawyers and efficient junior lawyers are going to represent the cases of Raju brothers and Srinivas Vadlamani,” he said. “I am just a face and voice of this team of lawyers.”
Kumar is no stranger to media; till around 2003 (from sometime in 1992) he worked for The Indian Express’ (later The New Indian Express) Hyderabad edition as a legal writer.
“Bharat Kumar was my senior in SP College, Secunderabad. After graduating in law, he did begin his apprenticeship with a leading lawyer, Kannabhiran... But...in the last 15 years or so, I never saw him coming that regularly to the high court,” said another Hyderabad-based lawyer, who too did not want to be identified. “I was taken aback to see the media reports that Bharat Kumar is the counsel of Ramalinga Raju.”
Still, Kumar does seem to have come into money and a thriving legal practice in the past few years. “Bharat used to move around in a Maruti 800 car till four-five years back,” said a senior journalist who has covered the crime beat and has known Kumar for several years. “He seems to have grown phenomenally in a short span and I now see him driving around in expensive cars such as a Honda CRV and Skoda Laura,” added this person, who did not wish to be identified.
Kumar is also representing Ramalinga Raju’s brother and Satyam’s former managing director B. Rama Raju and the company’s chief financial officer Srinivas Vadlamani.
While the reasons for Raju’s choice of Kumar as a lawyer aren’t known, a former journalist, now working with the promoter of a special economic zone, said: “Bharat Kumar had stopped active law practice in the last three-four years and was busy in alternative dispute mechanism during the real estate boom in the state. He would have come in touch with the Raju family and won their confidence is resolving disputes pertaining to land acquisitions. Remember, (Ramalinga) Raju himself announced on 16 December that Maytas Properties Pvt. Ltd owns some 6,500 acres of land, mostly in Andhra Pradesh.”
On 16 December, Raju made this claim, which hasn’t been repudiated since, while announcing the botched attempt to merge Satyam and Maytas.
The former journalist added that the Rajus aren’t the only family with whom Kumar works. “Bharat Kumar is known as a street-smart lawyer and seems to have earned the confidence of several families of corporate houses in the state, while settling real estate disputes.”