Mahua Moitra’s ‘jilted ex’, former ToI columnist, lawyer: Who is Jai Anant Dehadrai?

The Trinamool MP has named him in a defamation suit after BJP MP Nishikant Dubey’s cash-for-query allegations.

WrittenBy:Shivnarayan Rajpurohit
Date:
Dehadrai sharing a cigar with Moitra at a gathering in Delhi.
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Earlier this week, BJP MP Nishikant Dubey accused Trinamool Congress MP Mahua Moitra of accepting gifts and cash in lieu of asking questions in Parliament, and requested Lok Sabha speaker Om Birla to suspend her. Dubey said the allegations were passed on by one Jai Anant Dehadrai, who had undertaken “elaborate and painstaking research”.

Moitra filed a defamation suit after the charges and called Dehadrai a “jilted ex”. 

But who’s he? 

By profession, the 35-year-old is a lawyer. He has written for The Times of India – under “The Irreverent Lawyer” column – from 2013 to 2022 as well as on other media platforms, and continues to offer hot-takes on X, formerly Twitter.

After “three years of relationship”, Moitra and Dehadrai fell out early this year, a source told Newslaundry. They also fought a custody battle over Moitra’s dog, Henry, her defamation suit indicates. 

‘Repeated threats’

Moitra had filed two complaints with Barakhamba police station in March and September this year against Dehadrai for alleged trespassing and theft. But these were withdrawn on October 4 to “resolve the matter amicably”, according to Moitra’s defamation suit in the Delhi High Court, which was filed following the cash-for-question allegations, against Dubey, Dehadrai, social media platforms and 15 media outfits. 

“Noticee No. 2 (Dehadrai) not only repeatedly threatened our client (Moitra) with several vile, malicious and vulgar messages, but also trespassed into her official government residence and stole some personal possessions, including her pet dog (which he later returned),” read the defamation suit notice.

A source privy to the matter alleged that Dehadrai had stolen Henry’s toys, leash, and harness. Since Moitra would stay in Delhi for a few days in a month, she would ask Dehadrai to take care of the rottweiler, the source said. “In Mahua’s absence from Delhi, she would normally hand over Henry to Jai. Once when she returned, he refused to return Henry to her possibly because of his growing fondness,” the source said, adding that Moitra considers the dog her child.  

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The edited pictures

Two photographs of Moitra have recently been circulated on social media along with the allegations that she took bribes to ask questions in Parliament. Moitra’s notice alleged that Dehadrai had leaked these pictures to the BJP, which passed them on to its social media team. 

In one, Moitra is seen smoking a cigar. In another, she is hugging Congress MP Shashi Tharoor. BJP leader Priti Gandhi was among the first to share these pictures on X.

But both the pictures, which are from two separate gatherings, were cropped to not show others in the frame. Newslaundry has seen other pictures of the two meet-ups. 

In the edited cigar photo, Dehadrai has been cropped out of the frame. And in another frame, Dehadrai is seen passing the cigar to Moitra. “Moitra is health conscious and does not smoke. Dehadrai handed over the cigar to her so that her cigar photo could be misused later,” claimed another source. 

“It was the birthday of Dehadrai. It was hosted by senior advocate ANS Nadkarni at The Chambers at Taj Hotel as he had the membership,” said the source. The photos of the event show five people, including Dehadrai, Moitra and Nadkarni.  

However, Nadkarni told Newslaundry that he “does not remember any party being hosted” by him. “Who told you I was there at the party? Did you see my photo there? Be a good journalist, do good journalism. Don’t get into all this rubbish… We are lawyers and host so many dinners. I don’t keep a tab on who is invited,” he said, refusing to comment on Dehadrai, saying a professional would not comment on another professional.

In another uncropped photo, Tharoor is seen side-hugging his sister and Moitra. But Tharoor’s sister has been cropped out of the photo which was shared by Priti Gandhi, other BJP leaders and right-wing trolls. “It was done to besmirch Mahua’s reputation,” said one of the sources quoted above. 

This picture was from a Supreme Court lawyer’s birthday party at his Jor Bagh home.

Dehadrai is not a fan of morphed photos – at least when they are related to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. When morphed photos of Modi wearing a skullcap emerged during his Egypt visit, he called for the arrest of a woman for sharing the photo. He wrote on X: “This is the saddest iteration of photoshop/fake news - you should be arrested for spreading misinformation.”   

‘Not a troll’

After graduating from Pune University, Dehadrai pursued his masters in law from the University of Pennsylvania, according to his LinkedIn profile. Since then, he worked under former Additional Solicitor General ANS Nadkarni as a chamber junior and was a counsel of the Goa government. He also runs his own legal firm, Law Chambers of Jai Anant Dehadrai, which focuses on “white-collar criminal matters, commercial litigation, general arbitration and constitutional issues”. He has also championed the cause of disability rights along with his friend and activist Nipun Malhotra.

On the day when Dubey sought Moitra’s suspension, Dehadrai also filed an affidavit in the Central Bureau of Investigation to probe “cash for query” allegations against Moitra. Phone calls to him elicited no response. When this correspondent visited his chamber office at Niti Bagh, security guards refused permission to enter the building. One of the security guards had this reporter talk to Dehadrai on the phone. Dehadrai flew into rage: “How dare you enter my premises? It is trespassing… I don’t care if you are writing a profile on me. I have sent to the CBI whatever I had to.” Newslaundry never entered his premises.

Newslaundry will update this report whenever he agrees to speak on the issue.

Beyond the courtroom, he is ready with his online hot-takes on every topic under the sun. 

Dehadrai in March called his new ally Dubey “raktabija” (devil) for calling Moitra a “nagar vadhu” (bride of the city). In September last year, he wanted Dubey arrested for barging into the air traffic control room.

These individuals and topics are a recurring feature of his tweets: Tharoor, Delhi MP Gautam Gambhir, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath, Henry the dog, Congress and incumbent chief justices.

Dehadrai fawns over the “visionary” Prime Minister Narendra Modi, sees Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath as the next prime minister; cheers police encounters in the state; shames the then West Bengal governor Jagdeep Dhankhar with “no spine” for “not knowing the meaning of the Constitution”, calls MP Shashi Tharoor “a sexual predator”; and describes journalist and author Aakar Patel as “anti-national”.

He fights off pejoratives ascribed to him. “Please don’t defame me by calling me a troll. I didn’t know asking questions is trolling…” he tweeted in 2018 while questioning the purchase of Toyotas by the Delhi government. 

In 2019, his petition on seeking human facilities at detention centres in Assam was dismissed by the Supreme Court. A senior lawyer on X called the petition “half baked” by a young lawyer (Dehadrai). Dehadrai upbraided the lawyer: “… You must really be sad in life to get as personal as you did. I wish you well.”  

His take on Tharoor was not always harsh. In November 2021, the Kerala MP posted a picture with six female MPs with the caption: “Who says the Lok Sabha isn’t an attractive place to work?” The tweet was called sexist by some users on X. Dehadrai batted for Tharoor: “Absolutely nothing offensive about that post - people need to take themselves a little less seriously. Disappointed that you even reacted to a nutter like Karuna Nundy.”

Writing for The Times of India in June 2021, Dehadrai lamented that Tharoor was a “doubly cursed man” because of a “bungled-up investigation”. That was two years ago. Now, he calls the MP “manipulative”, “dark”, “twisted”, “sexual predator” etc.

Dehadrai’s views on police encounters have also gone under a sea change. In 2020, he termed gangster Vikas Dubey’s encounter killing in UP “a cold blooded murder”. Dubey was facing over 60 cases, including eight for murder. Three years later, he congratulated Adityanath after gangster Anil Dujana was killed in an encounter. “People protesting Anil Dujana’s encounter are patently foolish - he was a gangster for Gods sake!” he tweeted on May 4.

Dehadrai has remained unsparing towards the Congress, perpetually calling it “corrupt and dynastic”.

Once, he asserted that only Gambhir’s “charisma and vision” could remove Kejriwal from Delhi. “Given BJPs dismal performance in the MCD polls - @narendramodi must consider appointing @GautamGambhir as Delhi BJP President - and their face as CM. Only Gambhir has charisma and vision to unseat Kejriwal in Delhi,” Dehadrai tweeted in December last year.

He, among other lawyers, also represented Moitra in a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the Citizenship Act in 2019. “CAA is deeply problematic because it disincentivizes an individual from practicing a ‘particular’ religion, which is a fundamental right guaranteed by our Constitution - to citizen and foreigner alike. It is immoral and illegal,” he had tweeted in 2019.

On other occasions, he wears the hat of an English teacher. “Learn how to spell ‘judgment’ before you pass judgment,” he chided Karnataka Congress leader Dinesh Gundu Rao.

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