BJP leader Sushma Swaraj’s strong opposition to the Prime Minister’s proposal to appoint senior Supreme Court advocate P P Rao as the fifth member of the Lokpal selection panel, saying Rao had been a “Congress loyalist”, has come as a surprise to many.
More so because of the name Swaraj suggested in Rao’s place — former Attorney General and Rajya Sabha MP K Parasaran. Reached for comment by The Indian Express, Rao said he had given his consent to the appointment in writing and said he couldn’t ignore a call for public duty. He, however, refused to comment on the controversy.
The BJP’s opposition to Rao is thought to be linked to some high profile cases handled by the eminent lawyer. Apart from representing Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi in the Supreme Court in a case where Rahul was accused of being involved in an abduction and rape case in Amethi, his Lok Sabha constituency, Rao had also successfully rebuffed the legal challenge to President’s Rule being imposed in the four BJP-ruled states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Himachal Pradesh after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992.
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Defending the dismissal of the governments, Rao had told the court that since secularism was a feature of the constitution, the action of the four BJP governments in mobilising and supporting kar sevaks who demolished Babri Masjid was reason enough towarrant the dismissal. The constitutional expert was also the lawyer for the National Human Rights Commission in the Best Bakery case of the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. Sources in the BJP also said Rao was the frontrunner for the post of attorney general when the UPA government returned to power in 2009 but lost out to G E Vahanvati.
“This controversy is part of the BJP’s gameplan to ensure that the process of appointing the Lokpal isn’t carried forward. If eminent lawyers like P P Rao are opposed because they represented politicians or took stands contrary to a particular political party, then no lawyer will ever be found fit for such jobs. Name any big lawyer who hasn’t appeared for one major political party more than once? How can this be a disqualification?” asked a senior lawyer who did not wish to be identified.
On the other hand, sources said the BJP leader favouring Parasaran is not difficult to explain as the eminent lawyer and former attorney general is known for his strong religious beliefs even though he was nominated to the Rajya Sabha by the UPA. Appearing for Hindu Munnani leader Rama Gopalan before a Supreme Court bench in the Ram Sethu case, Parasaran had argued that the Sethu was a sacred place.
Opposing the Sethusamudram shipping channel project, Parasaran, whose son, Mohan Parasaran is the Solicitor General of India, told the court the project could leave a “deep scar” in the minds of Hindus. “Is there any compelling need to cause a wound again in the minds of so many Hindus to leave a permanent scar? A wrong deed of authority will leave a deep wound,” he had said. His son too had cited his religious beliefs to opt out of the case. Parasaran senior was Attorney General of India when Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi were prime ministers. They father-son duo continue to be close to the first family of Congress.