Politics must not decide judicial appointments
The BJP, which had often accused the UPA of weakening institutions like the CAG and the CBI, is doing exactly that being in power at the Centre. While its attempts to use the UGC to make Delhi University fall in line are a subject of media debate, former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium has questioned the Modi government’s ability to “appreciate and respect the independence, integrity and glory of the judicial institution”. According to him, “a very carefully orchestrated drama” has been played and adverse reports have been planted in the media in recent weeks to scuttle his appointment as a Judge of the Supreme Court.
Media reports have questioned his role in the 2G scam and alleged his links with corporate lobbyist Niira Radia. The government has reportedly asked the Supreme Court collegium to reconsider his case, while clearing the three other names. This has prompted Subramanium to withdraw his consent to be a Judge, alleging “my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehensions that I will not toe the line of the government”. What lends weight to the charge is the fact that as an amicus curiae Subramanium had brought Gujarat encounters under the Supreme Court scrutiny and forced the state government to prosecute guilty police officers.
Secondly, had there been anything shady in Subramanimum’s past, why would the CBI engage him as its lead counsel in important cases for so many years? Let the government contest Subramanium’s charges and place in public domain reasons for stalling his appointment. There are two key takeaways from this unpleasant development. One, it is a dangerous trend to discredit public personalities by planting motivated stories in the media based on questionable IB/CBI reports.
Two, the Modi government has exposed itself to the charge of working towards a committed judiciary. Incidentally, a Mumbai CBI Judge, who had pulled up BJP leader Amit Shah for failing to appear in a case, has been transferred. While the judiciary has to be proactive in guarding its independence, the Modi government has a lot to explain.