The Modi government is at loggerheads with its chief law officer, attorney general (AG) KK Venugopal.
The whole issue is on senior Supreme Court judges handling sexual assault charges against Assam-born chief justice of India Ranjan Gogoi.
Reports stated that about a week back the attorney general wrote a letter strongly recommending that external members be brought on to the special in-house panel set up to examine sexual slur charges on the CJI brought about by a dismissed apex court employee.
The letter was written by Venugopal to all judges of the top court. In his letter, the AG stated that any committee which is probing the sexual harassment charges brought about by the former Supreme Court staffer must comprise external members.
He suggested that retired women judges should be brought in as external members to satisfy the principle of transparency and fairness.
Justice DY Chandrachud also harped on the same point in a separate letter written by him.
The differences with Centre arose after the AG sent the letter to all the Supreme Court judges.
The Centre said that it did not agree with Venugopal’s views and pressurised him to declare that he had written the letter at his personal level and his views was not the opinion of the government.
After the government handed down its decision, Venugopal wrote another letter to the judges stating that his views were personal and did not constitute that of the government.
With Venugopal and the government locking horns over such a serious issue, reports stated that the AG may have to quit to “save his own reputation as a jurist and constitutional expert”.
He is senior to all Supreme Court judges by more than 20 years. With the Centre firm on protecting Ranjan Gogoi even if it means compromising on fairness and due process, the AG may well have to put in his papers.
If the AG resigns over the CJI’s alleged sexual harassment case, it will throw bad light on the Modi government – the way it has handled the issue, which will have serious ramifications on the credibility of the apex judiciary.
Solicitor general Tushar Mehta is defending the CJI on behalf of the Centre.