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Attorney General of India Goolam Vahanvati was conflicted out of providing the government with a legal opinion on the Vedanta-Cairns deal because his son AZB & Partners Mumbai partner Essaji Vahanvati had worked on the deal, according to a report in the Daily Pioneer today.

The paper cited “highly-placed Government sources” as saying “that the ‘presence of the Attorney General’s son’ in the deal prompted the Law Ministry to send the Petroleum Ministry’s proposal seeking legal advice to the Solicitor General, bypassing the Attorney General”.

Goolam Vahanvati told the paper that he was not handling the matter, adding: “My son is a junior partner in that law firm. I have nothing to do with that as he is an independent lawyer. I have not recused. But if the Government had sent the file [to me], I would not take it.”

Goolam Vahanvati was appointed to the post of the government’s highest legal adviser in June 2009.

Essaji Vahanvati has been a corporate partner at AZB since April 2009 and was part of the team advising mining giant Vedanta Resources on its $9.6bn takeover of Cairns India in August.

UPDATE: The Press Information Bureau has issued a press release on behalf of the law ministry stating:

"Our attention has been drawn to a report which has appeared in a National Daily today, titled “Vahanvati son’s role in Vedanta makes Centre bypass AG”. The Ministry of Law and Justice takes exception to this report which is inaccurate and false. The Ministry would like to clarify that there was no question of “avoiding” or “bypassing” the Attorney General. No proposal has been received by the Ministry from the Ministry of Petroleum in relation to the Vedanta-Cairn matter. Accordingly, the question of any such proposal being sent directly to the Solicitor General does not arise. Further, no complaints have been received by this Ministry in relation to any alleged possible clash of interest as far as the Attorney General is concerned. The Attorney General’s son is an independent professional practicing law as a Partner of AZB & Partners. This report is unfair, contrary to facts on record and has created unnecessary controversy."

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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-10-19 02:26
Did not AZB conflict out a judge in the supreme court in the Ambani brothers battle ? Now it's the AG In a mega deal which has got the government worried. In the Ambani battle the firm won. I am sure it will be no different in this one. I am told the firm has an uncanny ability to deal with complicated battles and come out winning
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-10-20 01:41
I think it is unfair to allege link-up between Essaji and his father, as far as practice of law by each of them is concerned. anywyas since the AG himlef says that he would have recused, there was no point in creating stories. Our media sometimes tries to do good but ends up barking at the wrong tree. Wonder if they will pick up father/ uncle judges working in the same courts where their children/relatives practice?
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous guest 2010-10-27 22:15
The point is about Judicial Ethics and who all should nurture and uphold it.

Unfortunately for India, ethical behaviour is exhibited less often by those who wield power.

I will draw your attention to a case where it would have been ethical for the Judge to recuse voluntarily.

The story is at www.expressindia.com/latest-news/student-expulsion-high-court-disposes-of-review-petition/674805/

The question before the court was whether a private school has the right to expel a child whose parents had protested against increases in tuition fees which they allege is "unfair". (For factual documents go to vibgyorfact.blogspot.com/ )

The High Court was notified of a direct conflict of interest as the presiding Judge is S C Dharmadhikari, whose father Justice (Retd) C S Dharmadhikari is known to maintain interest in several private unaided schools and is represented in the the Unaided Forum,an association of private unaided schools in Mumbai which litigates for the rights of these schools to decide fee hikes.

In my view the Bangalore principles as well as other precedents (Dines vs Proprietors of Grand Junction Canal, Pinochet case 1999) indicate that the learned Judge should have recused himself to prevent justice being derailed. Inspite of that, the HC Judge refused to review or recuse himself and stuck to his position.

As a result this case is headed for the Supreme Court.

The outcome is of crucial importance to lakhs of parents who seek admissions in private schools.

It is also the question, whether we need new legislation to protect the rights of parents to protest peacefully without having to suffer attacks on the child's educational continuity, by the very schools that profess to provide education as a service.

This is my opinion and view, and I shall be glad to hear views to the contrary.
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Recommend! +0 Objection! -0 Anonymous Guest 2011-11-17 08:38
Regarding the Mumbai School Fee matter mentioned above let me write the facts on this. There was a judgement in September 2010 which you can read here at url given below and is self explanatory.

educationforumindia.net/main/sites/default/files/Bombay_HC_Order_WPL_1876_2010.pdf

(Order in WP(L) No 1876 of 2010)

Please note that the honourable Judges were not C S Dharmadhikari or S C Dharmadhikari but Shri D.K. DESHMUKH & N.D. DESHPANDE, JJ.
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