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The two stooges

The two stooges

Publication: The Indian Express
Date: April 30, 2009
URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/news/what-loyalty-costs/452666/

Introduction: When Attorney General and Law Minister are rubber stamps, they stain the government

Fidelity is the sister of the law," the Roman poet Horace claimed. The UPA government seems to have taken him literally; its law minister and top law officer have proved themselves faithful to a fault. The revelations, reported by this newspaper, that the UPA government withdrew the

Interpol red corner notice against Bofors accused Ottavio Quattrocchi, have exposed the CBI as following its master's voice. Equally shocking are the revelations that the very same voice reached the ears of Attorney General Milon Banerji and Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj.

H.R. Bharadwaj's tenure has seen him swing from one scandal to another. But his ill-fated role in advising that president's rule be implemented in Bihar in 2005 is small change compared to the controversial de-freezing of Quattrocchi's London bank account in 2006 - despite express instructions from the Supreme Court to the contrary. The law minister blamed the CBI, but his own dubious role led this newspaper to ask that he "join the exit Q". True to form, three years later, Bharadwaj is involved in giving Mr Q yet another free pass. And this time too, he has defended his signature on the red corner removal file by blaming, guess who, the CBI!

At least the law minister is a member of the cabinet and of Parliament, and can offer that as an excuse for playing partisan politics. Milon Banerji has no such cover. The attorney general is a constitutional appointee. His job is to give independent legal advice, not cover up for the government. Yet, as this newspaper pointed out, in 2004 he ensured that the CBI did not appeal against a high court order quashing all charges in the Bofors case. He then used this decision not to appeal to justify removing an Interpol red corner notice against Mr Q - a circuitous justification if there ever was one. The government's number one lawyer has compounded his pliancy with ineptitude. In the last five years, he's made few appearances in court, forcing the government to rely on its other lawyers. This begs the very same question that the law minister can be asked - what, then, are they there for? The answer, alas, seems to be fidelity, that sister of the law.

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