A “negative” report by the CBI was apparently behind the government’s rejection of former Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam’s elevation as a judge ofthe Supreme Court.
The report, which sources in the CBI described as a “categorical opinion”, was sent to the Law Ministry last week. The ministry had sent a query to the investigating agency in the wake of reports that Subramaniam had, as SG, met with the lawyer for 2G scam accused former telecom minister A Raja in hisoffice, in the presence of CBI officers in charge of the investigation.
The CBI’s secret communication to the ministry has confirmed that Subramaniam was not engaged by the agency in the 2G matter at that time.
Significantly, however, the report has also referred to Subramaniam’s alleged “link” to former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia, whose intercepted phone conversations are under CBI scrutiny.
As reported by The Indian Express on August 23, 2013, the CBI had culled out 16 matters from the transcripts of the Radia tapes which it said needed further investigation. In its confidential report to the Supreme Court, the CBI also included a section on Radia’s alleged connections with members of the judiciary and top law officers.
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The report to the apex court had stated that some conversations among Radia and her associates indicated that a “complimentary membership” had been arranged for the then SG for the swimming pool at the Taj Mahal Hotel on New Delhi’s Man Singh Road.
The CBI had sought directions from the SC on matters pertaining to the judiciary and law officers (including the reference to Subramaniam). The “Honourable Court may like to pass suitable orders as deemed fit,” it had said.
Subramaniam did not respond to calls and text messages from The Indian Express. Subramaniam and former SG Rohinton Nariman were among the four names recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium on May 13. The Intelligence Bureau had cleared their appointments during the UPA government. However, according to a person with knowledge of the matter, then prime minister Manmohan Singh had asked the law ministry to leave the decision to the next government.
Incidentally, Subramaniam, as amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case, had brought new facts against the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat, which led to the SC ordering a probe by the CBI.
While it is unclear whether the Law Ministry also asked for information on Subramaniam’s alleged link to the Niira Radia controversy, the CBI, in its response sent in the second week of June, referred to a letter written by then CBI Director A P Singh to former Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Harin Rawal, reiterating that he was the CBI counsel in the 2G case.
Singh was responding to a two-page letter from Rawal, sent in the wake of reports that alleged that Subramaniam had been meeting with CBI officials. Rawal had asked the agency to clarify if he was still the counsel for CBI.
While turning down Subramaniam’s appointment to the Supreme Court, the government has agreeed to the other three names recommended by the collegium headed by Chief Justice of India R M Lodha.
However, under the Memorandum of Procedure, the collegium reserves the right to re-send Subramaniam’s name, in which case it will be binding on the government to accept the recommendation.