Why did Subramaniam skip Salwa Judum hearing, Chidambaram asks law ministry

Written by Ronojoy Banerjee | Ronojoy Banerjee | Nistula Hebbar | Nistula Hebbar | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 21 2011, 06:21am hrs
Former solicitor general Gopal Subramaniams abrupt exit is still creating ripples. The law ministry is now in receipt of a letter from home minister P Chidambaram asking why the countrys second most senior law officer was not present at the hearing of the Salwa Judum case in the Supreme Court, which ruled that the state-backed militia was illegal.

On Wednesday, finance minister Pranab Mukherjee too told FE that his ministry had not agreed to the setting up of a Special Investigating Team (SIT) on black money despite such a claim being made by Subramaniam in the Supreme Court.

We had not asked Gopal Subramaniam for an SIT, said Mukherjee. Government departments like the Enforcement Directorate (ED), the Intelligence Bureau (IB) and the Central Board of Direct Taxes (CBDT) were taken by surprise when Subramaniam said in court that the Government of India, in principle, has no objection whatsoever against the main submission of the petitioners.

This meant, in effect, that we had agreed to the setting up of the SIT, when the IB at least has not responded to a proposal of this kind. We did receive a letter proposing this from Subramaniam, said a home ministry official.

A senior ED officer too denied that the department had agreed to any court-monitored investigation into the money-laundering charges against Hasan Ali or related matters.

A law ministry source told FE that Chidambaram sought the opinion of law officers after he saw NP (not present) written against Subramaniam's name in the final order of in the Salwa Judum case. This raised eyebrows since this was an important case dealing with Naxal-affected areas, said a source in the law ministry.

Salwa Judum was set up in 2005 as an armed counter-force to Maoists, an extreme Left wing armed group. With bipartisan support, the Chhattisgarh government trained and backed Salwa Judum. Since inception, it has faced a series of charges on human rights violations, triggering a legal challenge in the Supreme Court. It was this case that was decided on July 5.

Subramaniam resigned saying he wanted to protect the dignity of his office. He was reportedly upset at the appointment of Rohinton Nariman as counsel for telecom minister Kapil Sibal in the 2G spectrum case. Subramaniam, who was appointed as solicitor general in 2009, is also the chairman of the Bar Council of India.

While both Subramaniam and former law minister Veerappa Moily have left their posts, the new law minister Salman Khurshid and the finance ministry are said to be conducting a stock-taking.

After Subramaniams resignation, attorney general Goolam Vahanvati and additional solicitor general Harin Rawal, on behalf of the government, filed a review petition in the Supreme Court asking it to recall its ordering setting up an SIT to probe black money.