EX-SG PULLS OUT OF SC RACE IN FACE OF TIRADE

New Delhi :  It appears that ‘Part One’ of the drama over the proposed elevation of former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court has ended with his decision to withdraw his consent for the post, while registering his protest against a ‘carefully orchestrated’ drama to overcome a recommendation.

His withdrawal came after the government cleared the elevation of three other names suggested by the collegium as Supreme Court judges. They are the Chief justice of the Calcutta High Court Arun Mishra, the Chief justice of the Orissa High Court Adarsh Goel, and senior lawyer Rohinton Nariman.

As he withdrew his candidature, a bitter Subramanium pointed out that the five-judge collegium headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, which had recommended his name, would not have taken on the Modi government and insisted on his appointment.

After writing to the Chief Justice that he is no longer available, Subramanium said: “I am sorry that the Supreme Court did not stand up for me.” He felt “let down by the judiciary” because it failed to assert itself after the government overruled its recommendation.The former AG decided to pull out after getting a hint that the Chief Justice’s office has already sought and secured consent of another senior advocate, who is now being recommended for elevation as a judge.

In his letter to the Chief Justice, Subramanium also said he was being targeted for “displaying integrity and independence” in a case that led to murder charges being framed against Amit Shah, a top aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He added that he had “no personal vengeance or grudge” against Shah and allegations of his bias against the BJP leader were “puerile and childish.”

Congress spokesperson and former union minister Anand Sharma, who described Subramanium as a fine lawyer who is known globally for his ‘integrity and independence,’ said this was an ominous sign. “The alarm bells should be ringing over this attempt by the government,” said Sharma while contemptuously dismissing the IB and CBI reports that have been doing the rounds in the media against the former solicitor general. The Congress leader charged the BJP with hand-picking ideologically aligned judges.

Union minister for law and justice Ravi Shankar Prasad batted for the BJP, and even as he refused to comment on the observations by Subramanium, strongly refuted the Congress allegation of ‘ideologically committed judiciary.’

Recalling that it was precisely 40 years ago that the Congress had imposed emergency (June 26, 1975) suspending all fundamental freedoms and then superseding judges, Prasad said that the BJP does not have to take lessons from such a party on the independence of judiciary. ‘‘Everyone knows who has worked a committed judiciary,” he told reporters.

But in his nine-page letter to the chief justice, Subramanium did not spare any punches. Indeed, he expressed his dismay at the failure of the Judiciary to stand up to the executive government of the day in this case. ‘‘I am unable to dispel the sense of unease that the judiciary has failed to assert its independence by respecting the likes and dislikes

of the executive government,” he has written while adding that coordination among various institutions is desirable but each organ is meant to have different defining characters.

In his letter, the former solicitor general has argued that when all the four names were recommended by the collegium, the executive government could not have carried out the process of segregating the names without the prior consent of the collegium. By doing so it has also brought the elevation of the three judges under a cloud. ‘‘The least I owe to them is that I withdraw my consent,” he has stated.

The opposition to Subramaniam’s elevation as a judge was quite evident after the change of government at the Centre, considering that he has worked as an ‘amicus curiae’ — a friend of the court — in the case that saw a condition being imposed on the senior BJP leader Amit Shah while granting bail that he would not permitted to enter Gujarat.

‘‘It was because of my independence and integrity as a lawyer that the Supreme Court had appointed me as amicus curiae, but now that very independence and integrity is being held against me,” he has said in his letter while observing that the government is apprehensive that he would not be ‘toeing ‘their line.”

 He has said: ‘‘I am fully conscious that my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehensions that I will not toe the line of the Government. This factor has been decisive in refusing to appoint me. I have no illusions that this is so.”

But he has got not just the partisan support of the Congress party, but even senior former Supreme Court judges like V R Krishna Iyer and M Venkatachalaih. Siad Justice Iyer: ‘‘It will be an honour for the Supreme Court Bench if he is installed as a judge. However to disallow him that post will be an indefensible disaster and disappointment, which the country need not suffer from at all. As a retired judge of the Supreme Court myself I regret this measure of the Prime Minister. ‘’

Chief Justice Lodha is returning to Delhi on Sunday and hence the collegium may meet at the earliest only next week to take a view on the government returning its recommendation on Subramanium.

One of the judges on the collegium reportedly expressed surprise and said that Subramanium should not have pre-judged the senior judges who had unanimously recommended his name and he should have waited for their call on the government’s decision.

‘I WAS LET DOWN BY JUDICIARY’ 

  • Former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium has withdrawn his candidature as a Supreme Court judge
  • He has accused Modi government of raking up “dirt” against him to scuttle his elevation.
  • He also feels that the 5-judge collegium headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, which recommended his name, will not take on the Modi government to insist on his appointment.
  • One of the judges on the collegium feels that Subramanium should not have pre-judged the senior judges who had unanimously recommended his name. He should have rather waited for their call on the government’s reservation in appointing him.
  • His name had been recommended for elevation by a Supreme Court collegium
  • In his letter to the CJI, Subramanium said he was being targeted for “displaying integrity and independence” in a case that led to murder charges being framed against Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh case.
  • He decided to pull out after getting a hint that the Chief Justice’s office has already sought and secured consent of another senior advocate Uday U Lalit, whose is now likely to be recommended for elevation.
  • After writing to the Chief Justice that he is no longer available, Subramanium said: “I am sorry that the Supreme Court did not stand up for me.”
  • Subramanium has also protested against the charge that he had violated protocol by meeting the lawyer of former telecom minister A Raja in the 2G scam.
  • Another allegation is that he was gifted the right to use a swimming pool at a five-star hotel in Delhi by Niira Radia, a lobbyist for some of India’s top telecom firms.

Did he pre-judge the SC collegium?

Chief Justice R M Lodha is returning to Delhi on Sunday and hence the Supreme Court collegium may meet at the earliest only next week to take a view on the Narendra Modi government returning its recommendation on Gopal Subramanium. One of the judges on the collegium reportedly expressed surprise and said that Subramanium should not have pre-judged the senior judges who had unanimously recommended his name and he should have waited for their call on the government’s decision.

WHAT IS BEING HELD AGAINST HIM

‘‘It was because of my independence and integrity as a lawyer that the Supreme Court had appointed me as amicus curiae (in the Amit Shah case), but now that very independence and integrity is being held against me…I am fully conscious that my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehensions that I will not toe the line of the Government. This factor has been decisive in refusing to appoint me. I have no illusions that this is so.”

ON AMIT SHAH

He had “no personal vengeance or grudge” against Shah and allegations of his bias against the BJP leader were “puerile and childish.”

Anil Sharma

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