Amid controversy over the coveted presidency of the India International Centre (IIC) that culminated in the stepping down of eminent jurist Soli Sorabjee on Friday to make way for J&K Governor NN Vohra, it has now emerged that Justice (Retd.) BN Srikrishna had strongly objected to Vohra repeatedly raking up the issue of re-election of Sorabjee.
In his letter to Vohra, written on June 14, Justice Srikrishna has reiterated his earlier position about how it would be “imprudent for anyone, including the life trustees, to attempt to go back” on the matter of re-election of Sorabjee. He goes on to write, “I suggest the matter of election of the president be buried for the present, and things taken forward without rancour. I am increasingly getting the impression that all this controversy is being engineered because of unfulfilled ambitions.” In the re-election held on December 26, 2016, 87-year-old Sorabjee, who had held the five-year term as IIC president, was preceded. The meeting witnessed some infighting among the Board of Trustees with two of the five life trustees — Vohra and art scholar Kapila Vatsyayan — raising strong objections.
The IIC president is elected by a voting process which involves all five life trustees and the two elected trustees (one individual and the other institutional). At the time of voting, the life trustees were Sorabjee, Vohra, Srikrishna and Vatsyayan. The position held by the fifth life trustee, late MGK Menon, has been vacant since his death in November 2016.
The elected members at that time were former RBI (Central Board) Governor Vipin Malik (individual), while the institutional member RK Pauchauri’s links with TERI were severed earlier that year. Malik and Srikrishna voted for Sorabjee, while Vatsyayan’s name was backed by Vohra. Moreover, Sorabjee’s detractors have been objecting to him giving membership to several people from the legal fraternity. The Sorabjee camp, however, points out that Vohra’s name was ruled out because he, being the J&K Governor, is not based in Delhi.
At Friday’s AGM, Sorabjee announced that he was relinquishing his post for Vohra to take over.
Soli Sorabjee told The Sunday Express, “My family wanted me to avoid the stress. Plus, we wanted to avoid any controversy to maintain the image of the IIC. That was the main reason. It was done very gracefully and in an amicable way and accepted by all”. Vohra’s letter, dated March 3, quoted in The Economic Times, read, “Dr Vatsyayan and I have been and continue to remain of the firm opinion that the sanctified tradition of appointing the President by consensus amongst the life trustees should not have been given up, and that there was no basis for your ambition to be ‘Life President’.”