Eminent lawyer Gopal Subramanium ruled himself out of the SC race Wednesday, accusing the government of "character assassination" and asking the CBI to dig dirt on him to scuttle his chances to be a judge.
In a nine-page letter to Chief Justice of India RM Lodha, the former solicitor general who had assisted the top court in the Sohrabuddin fake encounter case in which BJP general secretary Amit Shah is now an accused, withdrew his consent to be considered for a judge's position.
He was being targeted because of his independence and integrity and was surprised that the judiciary had failed to assert its independence by giving in to the government's whims, he said.
"The purpose behind my resignation is to give a message to both -- executive and judiciary," Subramanium told HT. "My advice to the government is -- don't look for likeable people in the judiciary. And for judiciary -- it's not correct to recommend on the basis of the Prime Minister's liking," Subramanium told HT.
It was on Subramanium's suggestion that the top court in October 2010 asked Shah, who is accused of hatching the encounter conspiracy, to remain outside Gujarat while letting him be on bail. Shah was externed for more than two years.
The controversy over his appointment has been brewing for more than a month when the SC collegium headed by CJI Lodha recommended Subramanium, Calcutta high court chief justice Arun Mishram, Orissa chief justice Adarsh Kumar Goel and senior advocate Rohinton Nariman's names for judges.
On June 19, the law ministry cleared all the names but that of Subramanium, citing "negative" CBI and Intelligence Bureau (IB) reports and recordings of his conversation with former corporate lobbyist Niira Radia.
The IB and CBI are asked to run a background check before senior appointments are confirmed.
The CJI had told him that intelligence reports given on May 14 -- the UPA was still in power -- gave him all-clear, Subramanium said.
Media reports -- attributed to the CBI and IB -- linking him to the 2G scam and accusing him of taking favours from Radia were "malicious" and "half-truths, he said.
The senior lawyer, who has represented the CBI in several high-profile cases such as the 1993 Mumbai riots, said he never met Radia when he was the solicitor general. "Prior to me becoming additional solicitor general, I gave her legal advice when one of her sons was abducted," he said.
"I'm heavily religious and that cannot make me unsuitable for the post," Subramanium said to the government citing his reliance on spiritual instincts rather than rational logic to oppose his appointment.
When asked if his role as amicus curiae in the Sohrabuddin case could be the reason for government's resistance, Subramanium said, "I had never targeted the PM (who was then the Gujarat CM). I had no knowledge of who was Amit Shah."
His plea to get the case transferred to the CBI was based on a report Geeta Johri, a Gujarat police officer, Subramanium said.
Subramanium said he was surprised that the judiciary had failed to assert its independence and did not protest against the news leaks. "I'm more than willing to step out, but I trust you and your colleagues will undertake suitable introspection," his told the CJI.