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After SG quit Gopal Subramanium no show today; Could lose BCI chairmanship but bench ambitions rumoured

Solicitor general-less GS might bar self from Bar Council
Solicitor general-less GS might bar self from Bar Council

Gopal Subramanium did not appear in the Supreme Court for the 2G PIL today after he offered his resignation as solicitor general on Saturday, following private practice advocate Rohinton Nariman having been formally appointed and today representing government minister Kapil Sibal in the 2G hearings.

If Subramanium’s resignation takes effect he could also cease being a member of the Bar Council of India (BCI), raising a question mark whether he can continue as chairman.

The PTI first reported Subramanium’s resignation on Saturday (9 July), explaining that “sources said Subramaniam was apparently unhappy over a move to hire a private lawyer to represent Telecom Ministry in the 2G scam case in the Supreme Court”.

NewsX TV channel later reported that Subramanium said: “I had to protect the office. They wanted to appoint a private lawyer which diminishes the office of solicitor general. It was a point of principle.”

Subramanium did not respond to Legally India’s email seeking comment.

Law minister Veerappa Moily, to whom a solicitor general would have to tender his resignation, told NewsX and other media from Bangalore: “I have received his resignation but not accepted it yet. I will try to persuade him once I reach Delhi.”

Barred from the Council?

Subramanium is also the Bar Council of India (BCI) chairman since April 2011. Unusually he was elected into the role by the BCI members, who are deputed from each of the state bar councils, despite being an unelected ex officio member of the BCI.

According to section 4(1) of the Advocates Act 1961 besides the elected state bar council members the BCI includes the ex officio members of the attorney general and the solicitor general.

In sub-section 2 it adds: “There shall be a Chairman and a Vice-Chairman of the Bar Council of India elected by the Council in such manner as may be prescribed.” The Act does not elaborate on the mode of election.

The term for chairmanship at the BCI is two years so Subramanium’s term would not normally finish until early 2012.

Just cause or planning for the bench?

One Supreme Court insider told Legally India that Subramanium was looking to retire as solicitor general in order to pursue judgeship. “The buzz at the bar is that he has been pushing for [a position on] the bench for about six to eight months now,” said the source. Two vacancies had been created at the Supreme Court, most recently after Justice B Sudershan Reddy retired last week.

Former attorney general Soli Sorabjee told NewsX that he agreed with Subramanium’s decision to resign as solicitor general under the circumstances, saying that if a private lawyer was formally appointed in a government matter over a solicitor general was an expression of a “loss of confidence” in him.

Senior lawyer Dushyant Dave, however, argued that Subramanium, whom he called an “outstanding lawyer and a man with impeccable integrity”, should not resign because appointing any lawyer they wished was a prerogative of the government.

In court today

According to someone at the Supreme Court today Subramanium did not appear in the Supreme Court today in the 2G scam-related public interest litigation (PIL) brought by activist lawyer Prashant Bushan, with Rohinton Nariman having represented communications and IT minister Kapil Sibal.

According to India Today the Supreme Court dismissed the petition against Sibal and Reliance Anil Dirubhai Ambani Group (ADAG) chairman Anil Ambani, which was seeking a Central Bureau of Investigations (CBI) probe into why Sibal had reduced a penalty on Ambani for closing a rural telephony service.

The Supreme Court bench of justices GS Singhvi and AK Ganguly held today that Bushan should file a fresh petition because there was no relationship between the claims and the 2G scam. “If there is any irregularity allegedly connected whatsoever with telecom, it cannot be linked to the 2G.”

Can GS continue as BCI chairman if he resigns as solicitor general? What are your views?

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