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AG Vahanvati conflicted out of Vedanta-Cairn opinion as son advised on AZB deal

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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