Law ministry mulls briefing committee for critical issues

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 21 2011, 07:24am hrs
With the law ministrys views being increasingly sought on various critical issues, the government is considering setting up a three-member briefing committee to deliberate on such matters. This committee, once formed, would consider a case based on the extant laws after which it would be forwarded to the legal officer concerned for his final view. This system would mainly cater to those contentious issues which have no precedent and are interpretative in nature.

Law minister Salman Khurshid told FE that cases related to 2G spectrum allocation are complex since a chunk of the matter relies on interpretation of existing law. I am examining the scope of setting up a briefing committee which would look at high profile cases of national importance. This would help especially in those instances where we have to rely on first-principle basis and there is scope for interpretation, Khurshid said. Under the current practice, the brief of a particular case is prepared by a single individual of a lower rank who then delivers the file to the senior legal officer.

In the recent past, the department of telecommunication (DoT) has sought the law ministrys opinion on a wide range of issues, including the definition of an associate firm and technical matters pertaining to the interpretation of certain sections in the Companies Act.

Recently, the finance ministry had also sought the advice of former Solicitor General of India Gopal Subramaniam on whether the cost recovery of royalty should be made a pre-condition before clearing the multi-billion dollar Cairn-Vedanta deal.

Khurshid said that though the views of senior legal officers does not automatically become the law ministrys view, he, however, said the opinion cannot be ignored. AGs views does not necessarily become the law ministrys view. But there has to be very good reason for disagreement (with AGs opinion), he said. He also said that despite AGs views on cases which could have a direct bearing on certain entities, criminality, however, has to be proved in the court of law. Criminality has to be prima-facie proved in the court of law. Eligibility alone does not mean criminality, said Khurshid.