First a rant and then a change in stand. Veerappa Moily who was handed over the Corporate Affairs Ministry after being shunted out as the Law Minister says he has no comments to offer regarding his infamous vested interests comment that he had made yesterday.
I am happy with this new assignment and I am grateful that the Sonia Gandhi and the Prime Minister have entrusted me with this job, he said when asked. I will focus on my new portfolio and this is an important ministry and I will look to take it forward by doing some very good work.
Moily’s exit from the law ministry was an expected one and as the Supreme Court began to pile on the misery on the Government of India almost all had said that the law minister will be the first target during the re-shuffle. Moily did come across as a person who was interested in judicial reforms and certain statements made by him did indicate the same. However his critics say that they remained mainly statements and even blame him for not being assertive enough when it came to taking hard decisions.
This brings us to a crucial question as to how important is the position of a law minister. Several lawyers point out that it has not been a very high profile ministry but in today’s context when there are more scams than ministers in a government, the position of a law minister becomes extremely important in nature.
Former Law Minister of Karnataka, M C Nanaiah who was the leader of the opposition when Moily was the Chief Minister has this to say about the recent development.
I personally have seen Moily functioning very closely. He lacked a crucial quality and that was to keep his team together. In today’s context, the Law Ministry is a very crucial post. The government is battling many cases and hence a strong law minister is required. The government is going through a very rocky phase as of today and Moily on the other hand had been shooting his mouth off too much which in turn has only angered the government. It looks as though by making this change, the government was looking for a more sane and competent person.
A law minister needs to be an expert and a proper aptitude is required for this post. The statements that are made by a law minister need to carry weight and I would not rate Moily very high. Even during his tenure as the Chief Minister, he did not carry the conviction that was required.
With the government facing the flak of the Supreme Court today, it is the law minister who has to coordinate the law officers and face the court. Today unfortunately for Moily who should have been more pro active it is not the vested interests who have ensured this change, it is his own vested interest which has brought about the change for him.
Just after being changed, Moily had said in New Delhi that no one likes reforms and he was doing everything to introduce a change. A lot of things are the fault of the administrative ministry and it has nothing to do with us. We are only the face in the court, he had also said. However today Moily refuses to comment on all that he had said yesterday and only says that he is looking forward to his new portfolio. My top priority today is to pass a new bill which would replace the Companies Act. I have to see this bill through and this is a major challenge before me he also added.
Sources in New Delhi however add that the issue is not all that simple. The government found the law ministry to be a completely mismanaged one. There were dual representations in the 2G scam where Gopal Subramainam was concerned and this had led to several conflicts of interest. The ministry has come under fire several times and to add to the head ache the Supreme Court was going hammer and tongs against the Government. In New Delhi they were looking for a man with more aptitude and also who could be more assertive by nature. In Moily they found more of an academic and they were looking for someone more shrewd. Moreover he was also dealing under the shadow of a very pro active former law minister, H R Bharadwaj who on several levels was considered to be the perfect candidate for the post.
Justice Santhosh Hegde, former Judge of the Supreme Court of India says that the duty of the law minister is to advise the government on all matters before the Supreme Court of India. If the Supreme Court has taken up an issue suo motu, it is for the Law Minister to advise the government on how to go about it.
I however will not accept the argument that a law minister has to be a constitutional expert. No person can an expert on all subjects and political and legal personalities are completely different. As a law minister apart from having a fair idea of the law, he needs to be diplomatic. In the case of Moily, I think he has been changed mainly because the government did not find the representation before the Supreme Court effective enough. What Moily ideally had to do was to take stock of the situation and advised the government properly. The cases before the Supreme Court are of supreme importance and it is the job of the law minister to ensure that the government is represented properly before the court.