REFUSING to be a “judge-in-waiting” amid what he described as a conscious move by the Narendra Modi-led NDA government to mark him as “unsuitable” for elevation as a Supreme Court judge, former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium on Wednesday withdrew his candidature for the post, and alleged the government feared he would not toe their line.
In a nine-page letter to Chief Justice of India R M Lodha, Subramanium said this government does not respect the independence of the judiciary, complained about the judiciary’s failure to “assert its independence by respecting likes and dislikes of the Executive”, and appealed to the CJI for a “suitable introspection”.
Subramanium’s elevation was stalled following a “negative” report by the CBI — first reported by The Indian Express — questioning his propriety as SG in the 2G case and also his alleged links with former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose intercepted phone conversations are under CBI scrutiny.
The government cleared the names of senior advocate Rohinton Nariman, Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Arun Mishra and Orissa High Court Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel for elevation to the Supreme Court.
Calling reports in the media “carefully planted leaks” intended to make his candidature doubtful, Subramanium said the apprehension that he would not “toe the line of the government” had been “decisive in refusing to appoint” him.
Wondering why CBI would engage him as its counsel for more than two decades if it had any doubt over his acumen and integrity, he pointed out that the Law Ministry initiated an inquiry against him after May 15 “with a clear mandate to find something to describe me as unsuitable”. The election results, giving the NDA a clear majority, were declared on May 16.
In a thinly veiled censure of the Modi government, Subramanium said: “The events of past few weeks have raised serious doubts in my mind as to the ability of the Executive Government to appreciate and respect the independence, integrity and glory of the judicial institution. I do not expect this attitude to change with time.”
Justifying his role as amicus in Gujarat’s Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case in which the alleged role of then chief minister Modi and former home minister Amit Shah had come under the Supreme Court scanner, Subramanium said he was now being “targeted” for the “independence and integrity” that he had shown.
The senior advocate said he had met Modi only once when the latter was