NEW DELHI: The government on Friday sought to distance itself from a controversial group photograph featuring absconding businessman Nirav Modi along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and some Indian CEOs at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, last month.
"The photograph you are referring to is basically a very impromptu thing which happened," External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar said in response to a question in his weekly media briefing here.
"This was a very impromptu thing which just happened as we were going from one meeting to another," Kumar said.
"No agenda, no meeting. It was a very impromptu that took place between the group of India CEOs who were there and the Prime Minister."
The photograph was released by the Congress on Thursday, a day after the $1.8 billion fraud in Punjab National Bank (PNB) broke out.
Nirav Modi reportedly left the country on January 1, days before the fraud began to be unravelled, and the photograph was taken on January 23.
To another question, Kumar said that neither did the absconding fraud-accused celebrity designer contact any External Affairs Ministry official nor did the ministry have any knowledge about his whereabouts.
Earlier, the Ministry suspended the passports of Nirav Modi and his uncle Mehul Choksi, who has also fled the country.
"On the advice of the Enforcement Directorate, the Passport issuing authority in the Ministry of External Affairs has today suspended the validity of passports of Nirav Deepak Modi and Mehul Chinubhai Choksi with immediate effect for a period of four weeks u/s 10(A) of the Passports Act 1967," the ministry said in a statement.
"Nirav Deepak Modi and Mehul Chinubhai Choksi have been asked to respond within one week as to why their passports should not be impounded or revoked under Section 10 (3) (c) of the Passports Act 1967. If they fail to respond within the stipulated time it will be assumed that they have no response to offer and the MEA will go ahead with the revocation," it added.