A day before he publicly criticised the NDA government for its “unilateral” move to segregate former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium from the panel of four names recommended for appointment as Supreme Court judges by the collegium, Chief Justice of India R M Lodha expressed his disapproval in a letter to Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, and said the government should not adopt such “unilateral segregation” in the future.
In his one-page letter sent on June 30, Lodha wrote, “I don’t approve of segregation of proposal without my knowledge and concurrence…In future, such a procedure of unilateral segregation should not be adopted by the Executive.”
According to highly placed sources, the letter was received by Prasad’s office on Wednesday, and is awaiting his directions.
Conveying his strong displeasure, Lodha wrote, “You have segregated the proposal with respect to Gopal Subramanium from the other three names, which have now been referred back… Subramanium has in the meantime withdrawn his consent… He has also reiterated his withdrawal of consent… I am left with no choice but to withdraw the proposal relating to him and in view thereof, the occasion for reconsideration of the proposal relating to him by the collegium does not arise.”
The letter stated that the Supreme Court collegium had recommended the four names — Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Arun Mishra, Orissa High Court Chief Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, senior advocate Rohinton Nariman and Subramanium — in order of seniority.
At a farewell function organised for Justice B S Chauhan on Tuesday, Justice Lodha had said the government’s decision was “not proper”.
“On my return from abroad on June 28, a file was placed before me by the Ministry of Law and Justice, indicating that out of the four names, three proposals had been approved and the name of Gopal Subramanium was segregated. It was done unilaterally… without my knowledge and consent,” he said.
“The first thing I had taken objection to was the segregation of Gopal Subramanium’s file unilaterally by the executive. It is not proper,” he said.
While the three other names were cleared, Subramanium’s elevation was blocked by the Modi government following a “negative” report by the CBI questioning his propriety as SG in the 2G case and his alleged links with former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose intercepted phone conversations are under CBI scrutiny.
The CJI had disclosed that he had met Subramanium for 75 minutes after his return and asked him tro reconsider his decision on withdrawal. But on June 29, Subramanium wrote another six-line letter reiterating his decision.
The CJI had said he was “shocked” and “disappointed” when Subramanium made his letter on withdrawal of consent public although he asked him to wait till his return on June 28.
Defending the government’s decision on Wednesday, Prasad had said it was based on “cogent, proper and sound grounds.” He had asserted that in the process of appointment of judges, the government had the right to be consulted.