NEW DELHI: Facing criticism from the Chief Justice of India over the Gopal Subramanium controversy, the government today said it has the "highest regard" for the judiciary.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said here that while he has "no comment" to offer on the controversy, the government has the "highest regard" for the judiciary, the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice of India.
"I have no comment to make. But I want to reiterate very firmly that the Narendra Modi government has the highest respect for the judiciary. The independence of the judiciary, including the Supreme Court, is an article of faith for the government. We have the highest respect for the Chief Justice of India," Prasad said here.
Chief Justice of India R M Lodha had yesterday taken exception to the government's handling of the recommendation for appointment of Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court, saying it was not proper for the executive to unilaterally segregate his name from three others who were appointed to the top court.
Justice Lodha, who was travelling abroad when the segregation of Subramanium's name from those of others took place, had gone public with his objection to government's unilateral action.
After the CJI expressed displeasure, government said the case of Subramanium for appointment as a Supreme Court judge was not taken forward as the noted lawyer himself "withdrew" his candidature while the process of conducting verifications was underway.
Government sources said the Supreme Court collegium had referred four cases for appointment as judges.
"As a standard operating procedure, verification about all the four was conducted. Out of them, three cases were fine but the case of Subramanium was referred back to the collegium for reconsideration," the sources said.
"In the meanwhile, Subramanium himself withdrew his candidature because of which his candidature lapsed and the issue was no longer valid," the sources said, adding, "hence, his case was not taken forward."
As per the Memorandum of Procedure governing the appointment of apex court judges, the government can return the file to the judiciary for reconsideration. But when the collegium reiterates its recommendation, the government has to accept it. But there is no timeline for the government to take a decision.
The Supreme Court collegium, headed by the Chief Justice of India, had recommended the names of four persons as judges of the apex court but the government cleared the names of Chief Justices of Calcutta and Orissa High Courts, Arun Mishra and Adarsh Kumar Goyal respectively, and senior advocate Rohinton Nariman, leaving out Subramanum, the former Solicitor General.
The CJI had said when Subramanium reiterated his position of withdrawing his name, he was left with no option but to recall the collegium's recommendation (on Subramanium's name for appointment as judge).
Reacting to the controversy, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi today said it was an "unsavoury controversy" which has now come to an end.
"The Chief Justice has made his own comments because he was not here and came back from abroad on June 28 only. It is his own feeling and I cannot comment on the merits and de-merits of what he said.
"The gentleman (Gopal Subramanium) whose name was recommended has himself dropped out of the race. The issue is over and is being blown up only by the press," he said.