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Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad reacts to the Gopal Subramanium controversy; says government has highest regard for judiciary, CJI

Wednesday, 2 July 2014 - 5:42pm IST | Agency: PTI

Facing criticism from the Chief Justice of India over the Gopal Subramanium controversy, the government today said it has the "highest regard" for the judiciary.

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said here that while he has "no comment" to offer on the controversy, the government has the "highest regard" for the judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India. "I have no comment to make. But I want to reiterate very firmly that the Narendra Modi government has the highest respect for the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, is an article of faith for the government. We have the highest respect for the Chief Justice of India," Prasad said here.

Chief Justice of India RM Lodha had yesterday taken exception to the government's handling of the recommendation for appointment of Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court, saying it was not proper for the executive to unilaterally segregate his name from three others who were appointed to the top court.

Justice Lodha, who was travelling abroad when the segregation of Subramanium's name from those of others took place, had gone public with his objection to government's unilateral action.
After the CJI expressed displeasure, government said the case of Subramanium for appointment as a Supreme Court judge was not taken forward as the noted lawyer himself "withdrew" his candidature while the process of conducting verifications was underway.

ALSO READ: Who is Gopal Subramanium and why does he feel “let down” by the Narendra Modi government
It isn't very often that a sitting government takes the liberty to call the Supreme Court's collegium over its decision making, and had the chief justice chosen to reiterate its nomination of Subramanium, constitutionally, the government would have to comply. But that isn't what happened, and in response, Subramanium withdrew his candidature. So what went wrong? Read more

Narendra Modi government gets defensive over Gopal Subramanium fiasco; says government can't be blamed
The Narendra Modi government has offered clarification over their decision to return Gopal Subramanium recommendation as Supreme Court judge, following sharp criticism from the Chief Justice of India RM Lodha. "The Centre can't be blamed for Gopal Subramanium row," said government sources stated, according to CNN-IBN report. "In 2009 too, the then law minister Veerappa Moily, on the basis of an anonymous letter, had not considered CK Prasad's name for the Supreme Court judge," the report said. It further quoted the source, saying, "Gopal himself resigned, so the government couldn't do anything. If the Supreme Court wanted, it could have sent Gopal's name again and the government would have abided by it. It didn't and so the government cannot be held responsible. The government fully respects the judiciary." Read more

As per the Memorandum of Procedure governing the appointment of apex court judges, the government can return the file to the judiciary for reconsideration. But when the collegium reiterates its recommendation, the government has to accept it. But there is no timeline for the government to take a decision. The Supreme Court collegium, headed by the Chief Justice of India, had recommended the names of four persons as judges of the apex court but the government cleared the names of Chief Justices of Calcutta and Orissa High Courts, Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goyal respectively, and senior advocate Rohinton Nariman, leaving out Subramanum, the former Solicitor General.

The CJI had said when Subramanium reiterated his position of withdrawing his name, he was left with no option but to recall the collegium's recommendation (on Subramanium's name for appointment as judge).

Reacting to the controversy, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi today said it was an "unsavoury controversy" which has now come to an end. "The Chief Justice has made his own comments because he was not here and came back from abroad on June 28 only. It is his own feeling and I cannot comment on the merits and de-merits of what he said. "The gentleman (Gopal Subramanium) whose name was recommended has himself dropped out of the race. The issue is over and is being blown up only by the press," he said.

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