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Mainstream, VOL LII, No 31, July 26, 2014

Parting Of “Friend Of The Court” Gopal Subramanium: IB and CBI kowtowing to Prime Minister Modi

Saturday 26 July 2014

by Mustafa Khan

The Intelligence Bureau and Central Bureau of Investigation became obsequious to Narendra Modi even before he assumed the office of the PM. This is well illustrated in the personal experience of the former Solicitor General of India, Gopal Subramanium. “On May 15, 2014 none other than the Chief Justice of India told me that there was a complete integrity check and that the Intelligence Bureau has given me a clean chit. Now, immediately after a new government comes in, you find that the Central Bureau of Investigation has been given a mandate. In the past few days, news reports have appeared in a section of the media that the Union Government has reservations about my appointment. It has also been claimed that the IB and CBI have submitted adverse reports against me. I must say that these media reports are malicious insinuation based on half-truths, and appear to be a result of carefully planted leaks.”1

Widely known for his independence and integrity as the amicus curiae in the Padmana-bhaswamy temple and Sohrabuddin fake encounter cases, Subramanium became the first judicial casualty. The new dispensation, known as Modi sarkar, was back in action a la Gujarat 2002. It knew the bottom of the truth of Amit Shah and Narendra Modi’s involvement in the fake encounters and saw the possibility of Subramanium becoming an SC judge and hence planted leaks as a red herring in order to scuttle his chances. In private life he may have been spiritual but in his profession and public life he was rational, the temple investigation being a case in point. He was also independent and a man of integrity and was the very antithesis of Judge Akshay Mehta, Additional Advocate General Tushar Mehta and many other pliant and obsequious judges of the Modi era in Gujarat. It is sad that some give Modi A+ for his initial days in the Prime Minister’s post.2 Indeed, the faux pas of the Modi sarkar vis-à-vis Gopal Subramanium is of vintage Gujarat’s; decade-long rule under Moditva. But Subramanium proved a Daniel to the job;3 as he said: “I am not at all apologetic about my role as the amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin case. If I am paying the price for the manner in which I pursued the case, I don’t regret it at all. I am willing to pay the price 150 times.” This raises the question: did he see the heart of darkness in Modi and Shah?

Modi had created a fetid atmosphere by overwhelming the social media as well as comprehensive campaign in the American fashion without realising that India was a parliamentary system. His populist appeal to the people of Gujarat in 2002 and of India in 2014 had become miasmic and took the susceptible as patriotism. The first breath of fresh air came with no less a person than the Chief Justice of India, R.M. Lodha: “I promise 1.2 billion people of India that independence of the judiciary will not be compromised.”4 He threw the gauntlet when he went further and remarked: “I will be the first person to leave this chair if the judiciary’s independence is compromised.” And without mincing words he touched the pulse of Subramanium’s thematic constant: “I fail to understand how the appointment to a high constitutional position has been dealt with (by the government) in a casual manner.”

In confronting the demagogue and his decade-long demagoguery in Gujarat including the fake encounters like the most notorious one of Sohrabuddin, Justice Lodha hit the nail on the head: “It was a sad thing to learn that you have resigned from the position of Solicitor General of India. Not only that in every single case—in which you represented the Central Government and its functionaries—was ably conducted by you, but it also reflected your high character, sweet manners and single-minded application.” If there was a central fault in Modi as the Home Minister at that time it was his failure to apply his mind to the grievous crimes committed during his rule. For this the judiciary was made to appear as puppet or katputli of the executive. On the first day of his victory the SC squashed the Akshardham temple attack case and blamed Modi for not applying his mind in recommending the prosecution of Muslims who were innocent.

 Even more disturbing is that it was Modi who started politicising the Sohrabuddin case. “The case against Shah was a revenge for its [the Congress party’s] loss in the 2007 Assembly polls when it had made Sohrabuddin a hero. This was a politically motivated action against Amit Shah and the BJP Government in Gujarat to corner it and to put obstacles in the develop-ment work it was carrying out.” “Shah is completely innocent and the charges against him are fabricated. The CBI is being misused by the Congress against its political rival.” And as if the charges of murder, criminal conspiracy, wrongful confinement, kidnapping and abdu-cting to murder, extortion and destruction of evidence, raping of Kauserbi against MoS Shah and 15 police officers were not enough,
Modi threatened that the BJP would go to the people along with those fighting the forces of terror.5

And what did Modi say on Saturday July 24, 2010 when Shah resigned? He refused to accept the serious nature of the above crimes and went aggressive by observing: “He was accepting it [Shah’s resignation] because under the Constitu-tion, certain formalities (italics added for emphasis) have to be fulfilled.” This is how Modi can be charged for deliberately not applying his mind to the grave crimes his lieutenant had committed “under his watch”. In gravity this matches what Modi stated when Karan Thapar asked him in the 2007 interview how children and women were massacred in the streets of Ahmadabad “under his watch” and he did nothing. Omission to protect the lives of Muslims was violation of his sworn duty under the Constitution. So the “formalities” of the Constitution and not truth was the chicanery with which he has succeeded so far. It is reminiscent of the ‘clean chits’ issued by Advani and SITs have made him survive in power and not moral responsibility and fair justice in Indian courts. On July 24, 2010 Modi also said that his party would take the matter of Shah to the people, to the streets. That clearly shows that neither Modi nor the BJP takes the law of the land seriously and he like a demagogue knows how he can play on the susceptibilities of the people. He likewise manoeuvred in the post-Godhra scenario too.

 These are very serious matters because the former Solicitor General Gopal Subramanium had exposed how Shah was the kingpin in the extortion racket that he was conducting and the staging of the murders of Sohrabuddin, Kauserbi and Tulsiram Prajapati. He even opposed unconditional bail to Shah. But the influence and shrewdness of Ram Jethmalani carried the day and Shah was released and also given the right to campaign in the election. His conduct in canvassing was violation of the court order because he exhorted the people of Muzaffarnagar and other districts of western UP to take revenge against the Muslims. He insinuated that the Muslims had insulted the Jats and revenge must be taken. He also accused the Muslims of killing and getting relief from the government. As a matter of fact with the exception of one or two Hindus being killed in direct clashes more than 50 Muslims were killed. The relief distributed to them because of death and injury and loss of houses cannot be used as a cause of revenge. He had said: badla lena hoga! [“Revenge will have to be exacted from the Muslims!”]6

Can any court in the world exonerate a man charged with such grave crimes as narrated above? Giving bail to Shah was overturning the advice that the court had sought from its “friend”! Subramanium should have resigned just then to save himself from the other ignominies of the Modi sarkar. Ignominies multiplied as Shah was declared an absconder when he went underground at the issuance of arrest warrant, P.P. Pandey and Narendra Amin doing the same! All these happened “under the watch” of the Chief Minister who was also the Home Minister!

 Taking the totality of the Gujarat phenomenon under Modi, another amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran, said in his report, published on October 23, 2011, that Sanjiv Bhatt may have been present in the late night meeting at the official residence of Modi. Bhatt was no ordinary person. He was in charge of the intelligence of the State and also the personal security of the Chief Minister. No court took this advice to its logical end. Similarly M.J. Akbar expressed astonishment at the speed with which Sohrabuddin Sheikh was hunted down and killed; he remarked “a sense of urgency in the hunt that has absolutely no relationship with reality”.7

So what was there in the murder of Sohrabuddin that still can shake the chair on which the new Prime Minister sits? Judicial resolution of the cases of murders of Sohrabuddin, Haren Pandya, Ishrat Jahan etc. must be the top priority. Sanjiv Bhatt says Modi may be behind the murder of Pandya and Raju Ramachandran says that Bhatt could have been present in the meeting on February 27, 2002. Why have the courts failed to resolve these cases for more than a decade? Who is filibustering? 


1. Asian Age, Mumbai edition, June 29, 2014.

2. Aakar Patel, Asian Age, June 29.

3. Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice.

4. http://www.firstpost.com/india/cji-lodhas-war-cry-supreme-court-modi-sarkar-face-off-over-subramanium-1599067.html

5. http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2010-07-24/news/27624156_1_amit-shah-gujarat-minister-sohrabuddin-sheikh

6. http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/

7. ‘Not very intelligent, Mr Chidambrum’. M.J. Akbar, ‘Byline’ for September 11, 2011, the Times of India.