Monday, July 24, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Jethmalani quits Cabinet
Blames Sorabjee for resignation
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 23 — The relationship between the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee and the no-holds-barred Union Law and Justice Minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, has been anything but smooth over the past few months.

It is, therefore, not surprising that Mr Vajpayee pre-empted Mr Jethmalani and demanded his resignation for crossing swords with the Supreme Court. Mr Jethmalani, on a visit to Pune, faxed his resignation from there and the Prime Minister promptly forwarded it for acceptance to the President, Mr K.R. Narayanan, who has accepted it.

Authoritative sources said the main reason for Mr Jethmalani’s exit from the Union Cabinet was because of his strained relationship with the Chief Justice of India, Mr Justice A.S. Anand over an extended period of time.

“It is one thing that there are differences among the ministers of various constituents of the National Democratic Alliance government but it is highly embarrassing for the Prime Minister that one of his senior ministers brazenly attacks the Chief Justice of India,” the sources said.

Realising that Mr Jethmalani is bitter with the turn of events, the sources said he had not been sent packing because of the Attorney General, Mr Soli Sorabjee. “We have noted Mr Jethmalani’s observations that the Prime Minister would rather have a pliant Attorney-General rather than a Law Minister shooting from the hip,” the sources said. “We want to emphasise that Mr Sorabjee has nothing to do with Mr Jethmalani’s exit from the NDA government.

There have been several instances when Mr Jethmalani has sought to whip up controversies. A case in point is the Chairmanship of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission, the sources said and added “we would rather not go into these aspects.”

Mr Jethmalani thus makes an ignominious exit from the Union Cabinet because of what he describes as his “disappointment with Mr Vajpayee and differences with the Attorney-General.” The lawyer-cum-politician acknowledges with an element of indignation that the Prime Minister himself had asked for his resignation. That left no room for doubt that his ministerial stint had come to an end.

The irrepressible Rajya Sabha member said agitatedly over the telephone from Pune that he would have resigned in any case even if he had not been asked to do so by the Prime Minister.

Clearly, Mr Jethmalani did not see eye to eye with Mr Vajpayee and some of the decisions of the BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government. He refused to take up issues with Mr Vajpayee at this juncture but indicated that he had been having a running feud with Mr Sorabjee ever since he became the Union Law and Justice Minister. He said he had many disappointments with the Prime Minister who is wearing a crown of thorns. “I do not wish to add one more thorn to his crown. I will not, as at present advised, go into those disappointments.”

The Jethmalani-Sorabjee one-upmanship is bound to come into the open soon. Mr Jethmalani said the choice for the Prime Minister was between a “pliant Attorney-General” and a “no nonsense” Law and Justice Minister. He maintained that he resigned in protest against the conduct of the Attorney-General before the Supreme Court on July 21 when it heard the case pertaining to the Srikrishna Commission report.

Claiming that his resignation had nothing to do with the ruling Democratic Front’s decision in Maharashtra to prosecute the Shiv Sena chief, Mr Bal Thackeray, Mr Jethamalani warned that he would reveal everything by and by. He said he would have to go public about what the Attorney-General had been doing ever since he became the Union Law and Justice Minister.

Mr Jethmalani, who is scheduled to return to the Capital tonight, said he would be attending the monsoon session of Parliament.

Mr Jethmalani has the penchant for being embroiled in controversies like being expelled by the Supreme Court Bar Association and advocating a forgive and forget policy for the cricketers allegedly involved in match fixing. He has also in his personal capacity stoutly opposed the proposed Prevention of Terrorism (PoT) Bill.Back


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