With telecom minister Kapil Sibal firm that he will field Rohinton Nariman in the case based on a PIL against him and the attorney general, solicitor general Gopal Subramaniam raised the ante and withdrew himself from all court work from Monday.
Subramaniam sought to turn his confrontation with Sibal into a battle for the protection of the dignity of his office. He met President Pratibha Patil as well as attorney general G E Vahanvati on Sunday.
With the confrontation escalating, sources said the PM would take a call on whether to accept Subramaniam’s resignation on Monday.
Sources close to Sibal, however, ruled out reversal of the decision to field Nariman in the case against him and the AG.
Asked about the development, law minister Veerappa Moily did not want to comment as the matter rested with the PM. “We will take a call on the resignation on Monday,” he said.
While law ministry sources denied that other law officers like Amarjit Singh Chandiok had resigned in solidarity with Subramaniam, former judges and constitutional experts stepped forward to defend him. “Any self-respecting law officer, if slighted by the government, will take an identical decision,” former Chief Justice of India J S Verma said. He was seconded by former attorney general Soli J Sorabjee .
Subramaniam maintained silence on the issue but sources close to him said he was firm on the issue of dignity of his office. “He would rather quit than allow the dignity to be compromised,” a source said.
However, this had no effect on the government which justified its move to field Nariman by saying that he had been on the government panel of lawyers since 2009. Sources also said it was better to have two lawyers than one in a high stakes case.
“In any case, Subramaniam has struggled to plead a strong case for the government in the 2G matter,” a source involved in the decision said.
At the heart of the controversy is the legacy of distrust that a group of government leaders have developed towards Subramaniam. They fear that he will not be able to protect the government’s interests in the case based on the PIL, thus giving another opening to the Opposition.
The backing of some sections of the government has allowed Subramaniam to continue so far despite criticism, but this particular matter has become a test case for him. Sibal, who has emerged as a key troubleshooter for the PM and knows his law, is sticking to his stand.
In all probability, Sibal should have his way on this matter but Subramaniam is trying to raise the political cost for the government if it takes a decision which can be construed as a vote of no-confidence against him.
Law ministry sources said Subramaniam had been upset for a while that he was having to explain his performance in important cases like black money and Salwa Judum. Economic Times