Senior advocate U U Lalit’s name has been recommended by the Supreme Court collegium in place of former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium to be a judge on its bench. Subramanium had opted out of being considered for the post following a controversy after the NDA government sent back his name for reconsideration.
If the government accepts the recommendation of the collegium, then Lalit would be the second person after R F Nariman, former solicitor general, to become an apex court judge from the bar in nearly last 15 years.
He will have a tenure of a little over seven years in the apex court — his date of birth is November 9, 1957 — and he will be CJI for a few months.
While the fact that he was lawyer for Amit Shah, the BJP president and key aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in cases pertaining to alleged fake encounter killing of Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati in Gujarat is well-known, not many would be aware that Lalit has also argued for the BJP government of Chhattisgarh in the sedition case against human rights activist Binayak Sen for his alleged Naxal links. He was also appointed special prosecutor by the Supreme Court in 2011 in the 2G scam.
Among the other high-profile clients that Lalit has appeared for include former Punjab chief minister and deputy leader of the Congress in Lok Sabha Capt Amarinder Singh (in a corruption case), cricketer-turned-politician Navjot Singh Sidhu (in a case of culpable homicide not amounting to murder), actor Salman Khan (black buck poaching case) and alleged hawala dealer Hasan Ali Khan. He was also counsel for the three-member inquiry committee constituted by the Rajya Sabha chairman to go into charges against Justice P D Dinakaran.
Incidentally, the previous UPA government had opposed Lalit’s appointment as special public prosecutor for the trial court in the 2G spectrum trial.
During hearing of the case before a bench of the apex court, the then attorney general Goolam E Vahanvati had said Lalit could not be appointed special public prosecutor since under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act, the special public prosecutor should have been working for the government for at least seven years.
However, the court settled the issue in favour of Lalit after the CBI lawyer as well as the petitioners said he was the best man for the job due to his “undoubted integrity”.