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Gopal Subramanium’s heartbreakingly honest 9-page withdrawal letter: Bows out to avoid clouding others’ appointments | ‘Judiciary compromised’ because gov’t feared he wouldn’t ‘toe their line’

Senior counsel and Supreme Court judge candidate Gopal Subramanium has sent a letter to the Chief Justice of India (CJI) withdrawing his candidature, according to CNN IBN, writing:

I am fully conscious that my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehensions that I will not toe the government line. This factor has been decisive in refusing to appoint me.

It is sad day as the judiciary has been compromised. All charges against me are false.

A member of the collegium had anonymously supported Subramanium in an Economic Times newspaper report today, while the government had claimed that Subramanium was tainted because of a telephone conversation with lobbyist Niira Radia and his alleged conduct in working on the 2G scam as a lawyer, which Subramanium had denied at the time in a letter.

Update: Full 9-page resignation letter (via Bar & Bench) below.

The former solicitor general claimed that his file had been “segregated” by the government from the file with the other three names recommended for Supreme Court judgeship at the same time, resulting in the amended file never having been returned to the collegium for reconsideration. “I have now reliably learnt that no file was sent seeking reconsideration and that such segregation and appointments have been made outside your knowledge and also without the active consent of the Collegium. If my understanding is correct, then the aforesaid three appointments appear to be against the framework prescribed by the Constitution and by the Supreme Court in various pronouncements.”

He said he would withdraw because if he did not, the other three’s appointments – senior advocate Rohinton Nariman, and chief justices Adarsh Goel and Arun Mishra – who “have been my friends over so many years” would “come under a cloud”. “The least I owe them is that I withdraw.”

“I am, however, unable to dispel the sense of unease that the Judiciary has failed to assert its independence by respecting likes and dislikes of the Executive.”

Subramanium wrote that “in accordance with the highest traditions, when such events occur, i.e., when a lawyer invited to the Bench does not get to become a judge”, he would not practise before the Supreme Court until after the current CJI would end his term, while also having to “undertake, necessarily, personal and spiritual processes to re-enter as a lawyer” after a self-imposed ban on legal work pending his consideration as a judge. This was “necessary, lest any feeling of anger, distress, or disappointment should suddenly invade the conscious mind while performing my duties as a lawyer”.

Full letter highlights, digested

Subramanium wrote at the start of his letter:

Over the past two weeks quite a few media reports have voiced the Union Government’s reservations about my appointment. These reports speak of alleged adverse reports against me by the Intelligence Bureau and the CBI. I must say that these media reports are malicious insinuations based on half-truths, and appear to be the result of carefully planted leaks aimed at generating doubts in the minds of the Collegium and of the public as to the suitability and propriety of appointing me as a judge of the Supreme Court.

I am fully conscious that my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehensions that I will not toe the line of the Government. This factor has been decisive in refusing to appoint me. I have no illusions that this is so. I find it strange that no newspaper even spoke of my work over 34 years. The very fact that the Executive Government has not acknowledged my work, is sufficiently indicative of the true nature of its intentions.

I must, therefore, take this opportunity to clarify the allegations made in these news reports. I may add that on 15th May 2014, the Intelligence Bureau had given me a clean chit.

The IB has sought my advice on sensitive matters of national security for over 25 years (including during the previous NDA regime). In fact the then Deputy Prime Minister, Shri L.K. Advani, used to treat me with so much courtesy. The CBI has also consulted me on numerous occasions (before, during, and after my tenure as Law Officer) and I continued to have been its lead lawyer even after my resignation from the post of Solicitor General. Among the various matters in which I have led the State and the CBI are the Parliament Attack case, the Bombay Blasts appeals, and in the matter of the confirmation of the death penalty to Ajmal Kasab. One wonders why the CBI would repeatedly engage me as lead counsel over the past 20 years if there was any doubt. I have reliably learnt that the Ministry of Law & Justice initiated an inquiry after 15th May 2014, with a clear mandate to find something to describe me as unsuitable.

Subramanium also rubbished allegations that he had convened a meeting between CBI officers and the lawyers for 2G scam accused A Raja, saying that such a meeting never took place. He also said that “this matter had been misrepresented and misreported by a certain English daily, the Court had chastised the reporter in question”.

He said that he had no contact with lobbyist Niira Radia during his tenure as law officer between 2005 and 2011, and had only consulted her before then about the abduction of one of her children.

In respect of the pool membership, which Radia allegedly offered to Subramanium, according to media reports citing the CBI report and the government, he said that he had actually asked additional advocate general Parag Tripathi for help with, due to his ill health and repairs ongoing at another pool.

His conduct and confrontation of the Gujarat government in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, for which he happened to have been selected as amicus curiae by Supreme Court judges, was entirely merited by the facts, which opposing counsel had understood, and Subramanium bore no “personal vengeance or any kind of grudge against” Modi’s right-hand man Amit Shah who was a subject of the investigation.

Recounting that his and his wife’s only ever interaction with prime minister Narendra Modi had been cordial, during his stint as solicitor general (about which he parenthesised that his short-lived tenure in the post was “a period the memory of which I hope will be forgotten by me with time!!!”).

Citing or enclosing a number of character references of judges, such as those of former CJI SH Kapadia, Justices Krishna Iyer and Venkatachaliah and former law minister Veerappa Moily, he nevertheless said that he did not want his elevation to be the subject matter of politicisation or to be “placed in any position of embarrassment, having lived a life of professional dignity and honour”.

Gopal Subramanium's heartbreakingly candid letter to CJI

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