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Salman ray of hope for Gopal
(Top) Veerappa Moily, Salman Khurshid

New Delhi, July 12: The Prime Minister’s choice of Salman Khurshid as law minister may bode well for solicitor-general Gopal Subramanium and the beleaguered ministry.

The mild-mannered, soft-spoken lawyer is believed to enjoy a fairly affable relationship with Subramanium, who has put in his papers after telecom minister Kapil Sibal opted for a private counsel to defend him in the 2G case without consulting him.

Sources said things were likely to be sorted out soon as relations between Khurshid and Subramanium were fairly “cordial”. But Khurshid refused comment on the issue.

“I will go through the files and speak to everyone before taking a call,” was all he would say.

Outgoing law minister Veerappa Moily had been unhappy with Subramanium for taking his case to the Prime Minister.

Top Supreme Court lawyers who have worked closely with Khurshid expressed optimism over his appointment as law minister. “Things will improve,” a lawyer said. “He’s a good choice.”

Senior counsel Rajiv Dhavan said: “Under Moily, the law ministry had gone to the dogs. We have reason to be confident that the new law minister will address the problems of the government and not that of party or coalition of which he is a member.”

Under Moily, appointments of the government’s legal counsel “were based on patronage”, he claimed. “He virtually interfered with everything.”

With a battery of crucial cases coming up for hearing in the Supreme Court that is less tolerant of corruption than before, the government could be banking on Khurshid to better articulate its case.

Some of the cases that could pose a problem for the Centre are the cash-for-votes case and the black money case.

Khurshid said he would keep up Moily’s work on legal reforms. Moily had promised to cut back delays in disposal of cases from an average of 15 years to three but did not make much headway.

The new law minister seemed to deliberately keep expectations low by saying he had no “100-day agenda” but would work towards introducing the judicial accountability bill in the monsoon session to give the government a say in judges’ appointments.

Moily rejoinder

Moily today said he had been a victim of a “campaign by vested interests” against his reforms agenda and that “for the sins of some other ministries, the law minister cannot be hanged”.

“All these cases which we fail, it is the fault of the administrative ministry. It has got nothing to do with us. We are only the face in the court.”

Although he did not specify, he appeared to be referring to the 2G, black money and Salwa Judum cases.

Moily, however, claimed he was neither “upset” at being moced to the corporate affairs ministry nor had he been “slighted”.

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