Saturday, July 29, 2000,
Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Govt orders probe into leakage
Jethmalani’s views given go-by
From T.R. Ramachandran
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 28 — The BJP-led National Democratic Alliance government distanced itself from the virulent statements of the sacked Union Law, Justice and Company Affairs Minister, Mr Ram Jethmalani, and ordered an inquiry into the leakage of some secret documents.

The probe as to how Mr Jethmalani got hold of these documents after he had resigned at the behest of the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, will be conducted by the Chief Vigilance Officer of the Ministry of Law, Justice and Company Affairs.

Even as Mr Jethmalani finds himself isolated in the wake of his turbulent relationship with the Chief Justice of India (CJI), Mr Justice A.S. Anand, on the one hand and the Attorney General, Mr Soli Sorabjee, on the other hand, the executive is doing everything to put the relations with the judiciary on an even keel.

Mr Vajpayee is keen that without standing on prestige or dwelling into the finer points of law or precedents, consultations must be held with the CJI for greater transparency in the decision making process.

The government has not taken kindly to Mr Jethmalani’s argument that the CJI need not be consulted on all appointments, especially when a retired judge is being considered to head a commission and the like.

Irrespective of the predilections of Mr Jethmalani, who is now cooling his heels outside the NDA government, the government will go through the process of holding consultations with the CJI on the issue of appointing the Chairman of the Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC). Mr Justice Anand had cut short his foreign tour and returned to the Capital late last night.

Mr Jethmalani had acknowledged at his press conference here yesterday that in the appointment of Mr B.M. Lal, former Chief Justice of the Bihar High Court, as the MRTPC Chairman he did not consult the CJI as he was told that no consultation was “essential or required.”

It is clear the government does not want to indulge in any polemics or one-upmanship with the CJI. In all probability, Mr Lal’s appointment as the Chairman of the MRTPC will be formalised with the tacit approval of the CJI.

Highly placed sources in the government firmly ruled out replacing Mr Sorabjee. “What is his (Mr Sorabjee’s) fault... should someone be sent out because wild and unfounded allegations are made against him,” they ask agitatedly. They emphasise the Vajpayee government is not going to adopt a “gutter inspector’s outlook.”

They point out that nearly three decades back when such stalwarts as Mr M.C. Setalvad and Mr Daftary served as law officers of the government, they freely pursued their practices without any hindrance. The rules for law officers of the government were subsequently changed to incorporate a provision that they could take up private cases with the prior permission of the government. There are thousands of instances when the government of the day has granted such prior permission.

In a strong defence of Mr Sorabjee, the sources maintained he had done no wrong and if he had tendered legal advice to private parties, he had done so after seeking prior permission of the government.

The NDA leadership was explicit in observing that unfortunately Mr Jethmalani had cooked his own goose. There was no way the Prime Minister could have taken sides or bailed him out.


Ram unable to keep quiet: PM
Tribune News Service

NEW DELHI, July 28 — Responding to the issues raised by members in both Houses of Parliament with regard to the Jethmalani issue, the Prime Minister, Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee, today rejected his former Law Minister’s views about the Attorney-General and the Chief Justice.

The Prime Minister sought to rest the controversy over the removal of Mr Jethmalani and said in the Rajya Sabha that he had asked him to resign to remove the “imbalance” sought to be created between the judiciary and the executive.

The Prime Minister rose to clear the air on the issue after Law Minister Arun Jaitely asserted “There is absolutely no violation of principles, propriety, conventions or practices” in the action of the Attorney-General in giving advice to private parties, including on counter-guarantee for the Hindujas power project in Andhra Pradesh.

Mr Vajpayee also clarified on the Opposition charge that the Attorney-General had committed a constitutional impropriety by giving advice to the Hindujas when investigations were on into the Bofors scandal and said the pace of investigations into the case was being maintained.

Mr Vajpayee said there was no pressure on the CBI in the investigation and any delay was due only to procedural and judicial wrangles.

On charge sheeting Hinduja brothers, Mr Vajpayee said the brothers had changed citizenship and were refusing to come to India.

Mr Vajpayee was responding to clarifications by members on his statement in both Houses.

“My former Law Minister just cannot keep quiet,” the Prime Minister quipped and said despite his repeated advice he went on expressing views even on issues that did not really concern his ministry.

He was asked to send in his resignation as the government felt “now enough is enough” as a deep rift had developed between the judiciary and the executive, he said.

“Many times I had talked to him in a friendly way. He used to express his views on subjects which are not his area and when it was pointed out, he would simply say it was his personal opinion,” Mr Vajpayee said while defending his decision to ask the Law Minister to quit.

Earlier, Mr Jaitely said there were precedents where Attorney-Generals had been given permission to give advice to private parties and offered to lay such instances on the table of the House.

This was challenged by the Opposition, including Congress members and legal experts Kapil Sibal and H.R. Bhardwaj who said the Attorney-General had committed a grave impropriety by giving advice to Hinduja brothers and demanded that the Attorney-General be summoned to the bar of the House to explain his conduct.

The Prime Minister said he had acted to remove Mr Jethmalani to ensure that the “harmonious relationship is not only maintained but strengthened”.

The Opposition, while demanding action against the former Law Minister, accused the government of attempting to push under the carpet serious charges levelled by Mr Jethmalani and demanded these should be inquired into by an independent agency.

Earlier, the leader of the Opposition, Mr Manmohan Singh, wanted to know if Mr Jethmalani’s removal was manipulated or under pressure as claimed by the former Law Minister.

The Opposition, he said, was also disturbed by the open confrontation between the Law Minister and the Attorney-General.

Earlier tempers ran high in the Rajya Sabha today with the Opposition demanding an explanation from the government on the resignation of Mr Jethmalani as Law Minister and the subsequent allegations made by him against the Attorney-General.

A statement by the Prime Minister, in the Upper House, which he had earlier made in the Lok Sabha, failed to satisfy the Opposition. They said a dangerous situation of a widening rift between the executive and the judiciary was causing concern across the country.

Mr Vajpayee said, “So far we have followed the healthy convention of not discussing the conduct of judges in the House. We want to continue with the same.”

The Prime Minister denied that he acted under any pressure or that he was manipulated (by some forces) in moving against Mr Jethmalani.

“I am not made of that mettle. Nobody can manipulate me, “Mr Vajpayee said amid thumping of desks from the ruling coalition.”

Home | Punjab | Haryana | Jammu & Kashmir | Himachal Pradesh | Regional Briefs | Nation | Editorial |
Business | Sport | World | Mailbag | In Spotlight | Chandigarh Tribune | Ludhiana Tribune
50 years of Independence | Tercentenary Celebrations |
120 Years of Trust | Calendar | Weather | Archive | Subscribe | Suggestion | E-mail |