Chief Justice slams Modi government

In a major embarrassment to the Narendra Modi government, Chief Justice of India RM Lodha on Tuesday criticised the move to drop former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium from a panel of four names recommended for appointment as Supreme Court judges by a collegium of apex court judges.

Justice Lodha said he had taken objection to the ‘segregation unilaterally done by the executive without my knowledge and consent.’ In remarks which come as an embarrassment for the NDA government, Lodha said at a farewell function for a judge, ‘I fail to understand that the appointment of a high constitutional position has been dealt with in a casual manner.’

Reacting to the top judge’s comments, the government held its ground on Tuesday, insisting that it had the ‘highest regard for the Chief Justice.’ Citing past precedence, government sources said, ‘The government has the right to seek reconsideration of a nominee for judge.’

The Chief Justice, who was speaking on the controversy for the first time, said when he returned from abroad on 28 June, a file from the law ministry had been placed before him indicating that three of the four names had been approved and the name of Gopal Subramanium was segregated.
Subramanium withdrew his candidature in a letter to the Chief Justice and accused the government of indulging in a ‘dirt-digging exercise.’  He also alleged in the letter that he was being targeted for his role in a case of alleged murder registered against Amit Shah, a top aide to prime minister Narendra Modi.

Reacting to Subramanium’s charge that the judiciary had not stood by him, Justice Lodha said he was ‘shocked and a little disappointed’ that the senior lawyer had written a letter to him on 25 June, knowing he was returning three days later. ‘The independence of the judiciary can’t be allowed to be compromised. If I knew that the independence of the judiciary had been compromised, I will not hold my office even for a second,’ he said. ‘On June 28, Gopal met me and I requested him to withdraw his letter withdrawing his consent. But a day later, he responded by reiterating his stand. In view of this, I felt there is no point in pursuing this matter,’ added Lodha.
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