Queried on the issue, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad refused to comment, saying: “The appointment of Supreme Court judge being a sensitive issue, its not right for me to speak on it.”
Describing the development as “sad”, Congress leader Manish Tewari said: “This is a very sad day for the legal fraternity in India. He (Subramanium) is very respected counsel… he has been a victim of alleged character assassination and has been compelled to take this step.”
In response, Prasad said: “I don’t wish to make any comment except to gently remind that 40 years ago Emergency was imposed and how were judges superseded.”
Expressing displeasure over the development, former Chief Justice of India MN Venkatachaliah said: “Although the government has the right to express its opinion, it was not fair. This development is not good for the healthy growth of any institution in the country.”
Subramanium, meanwhile, told reporters at his office: “I am not here to offer myself for continuous scrutiny. I have established my credibility. Intelligence Bureau cleared my name on May 15. I don’t want any character certificate from anyone except myself”.
“My character and integrity do not need to be proved every morning. As long as persons like Justices Krishna Iyer and M.N. Venkatachaliah stand by me, I do not need to seek further fortification,” he said.
“Nobody could have withstood to such a rubbish like this,” Subramanium said, refuting media reports vilifying him in matters relating to 2G cases, staged shoot out cases of Sohrabbudin Sheikh and Tulsiram Prajapati, and the case relating to Bharatiya Janata Party general secretary Amit Shah.
He termed the media reports about the government’s reservations on his appointment as “malicious insinuations based on half-truths” and “carefully planted leaks aimed at generating doubts” in the collegium and of the people about his suitability for the post.
In his nine-page letter Wednesday to Chief Justice R.M.Lodha withdrawing his consent, Subramanium said: “It appears I am being targeted because of this very independence and integrity.”
“I am fully conscious that my independence as a lawyer is causing apprehension that I will not toe the line of the government. This factor has been decisive in refusing to appoint me. I have no illusion that this is so,” he said.
Subramanium, senior counsel Rohinton Nariman and two others were recommended for appointment as apex court judges.
However, the government cleared all names except his. Had he become an apex court judge, Subramanium would have gone on to become the Chief Justice of India and the second Tamilian to occupy the position after Chief Justice P.Sathasivam, who retired May 26 this year.
Subramanium appeared baffled with the silence of the Supreme Court collegium on the government’s response to its recommendations.
Describing the government action as an impediment to judicial independence, he told media persons: “I was invited to be a judge. I was not longing to be a judge. Having accepted the invitation to be on the bench, I wanted to do some good work.”
“The government has to be told that independent judges are not its enemy and they have to be independent to be in judiciary,” he asserted.
Subramanium contended that the government’s refusal to clear the recommendations has reduced to insignificance the 1993 apex court verdict in second judges case giving primacy to the advice of the apex court collegium headed by the Chief Justice of India and comprising four other senior most judges on the appointment of judges.
“I am, however, unable to dispel the sense of unease that the judiciary has failed to assert its independence by respecting the likes and dislikes of the executive. While harmony between different organs of the state is a desirable feature, the functionality of each organ is meant to have different, defining characteristics,” Subramanium said in his letter.
Asked why he withdrew his consent even though the collegium had yet to meet and consider government returning his name, Subramanium said that “if I had stood the ground, it would have been that I had an agenda. I don’t have an agenda”.