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Caravan dissects Goolam Vahanvati’s AG role: Bar’s genius or Government’s alibi?

Is Goolam Vahanvati, the Union Government’s top lawyer as attorney general, succumbing to pressures from the top and India Inc. in this increasingly politicised role, asked The Caravan in a typically thoroughly-reported feature.

Riffing off Vahanvati’s historically unprecedented trial court grilling over 2G, Caravan staff writer Krishn Kaushik wrote:

… on 27 February, all eyes were turned toward an otherwise unremarkable courtroom in Delhi’s Patiala House, where Goolamhussein Essaji Vahanvati was appearing before a Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) special court… He was standing in the witness box, answering questions about his role in what was, at least for a time, the country’s biggest scandal—the fraudulent allocation of 2G cellular spectrum. It was the first time in India’s history that the country’s attorney general had deposed as a witness in a trial court…

his appearance before the CBI special court marked a low point in his tenure as a law officer of the Union government, which has not been without its share of controversy. While much attention has been paid to the 2G scam, and thus to the role Vahanvati played, it is not the only case in which his opinions may have lent legitimacy to questionable decisions. In recent weeks, his name has surfaced in news reports as one of the government officials involved in watering down a CBI status report in the coal allocation scandal; in several other matters, Vahanvati has been accused of tailoring his interpretations of the law for the benefit of influential corporate houses.

The feature looks closely at several of Vahanvati’s most controversial opinions or matters where there was at least peripheral involvement, including 2G-Swan opinion, Coalgate-Sasan, Raja’s attempts to paint Vahanvati as co-conspirator in 2G, and his role in the Samajwadi Party (SP) president Mulayam Singh Yadav assets investigation.

Also under the microscope – though precious few details emerge – is the Vahanvati-Anil Ambani nexus, while throughout the piece, colleagues and other bystanders paint a vivid picture of Vahanvati and the AG role - “if there is a genius at the bar today, it is Vahanvati”, says one, while senior counsel Harish Salve adds that the AG role means to be, “really the conscience-keeper of the government”. Senior lawyer Prashant Bhushan adds, “a convenient attorney general is very useful to the government”, while one anonymous lobbyist accused Vahanvati of being “the government’s alibi”.

Read the entire feature – well worth a read.

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