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Govt-Kalam ties fraying at edges

Govt-Kalam ties fraying at edges

Author: Times News Network
Publication: The Times of India
Date: February 11, 2007
URL: http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/Govt-Kalam_ties_fraying_at_edges/articleshow/1590352.cms

President A P J Abdul Kalam's decision to return the file seeking elevation of Justice Jagdish Bhalla to the Kerala High Court marks a certain fraying of relations between Rashtrapati Bhawan and government as the father of India's missile programme nears the end of his tenure as the President.

The President's decision to signal his unhappiness over Justice Bhalla's elevation, apparently in the light of controversy surrounding acquisition of a Noida plot by his wife, is the third instance of Kalam taking a less than sanguine view of government decisions in the last year-and-a-half.

And in the Justice Bhalla case, it is the second time that Kalam has chosen to raise a question over a judicial appointment.

He had returned a similar recommendation regarding Justice Vijender Jain's elevation as chief justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court which had been mooted by the Supreme Court collegium and then forwarded with the government's assent.

Sources pointed out that though the President had given his nod to the Justice Jain recommendation when it came back without changes, the move had not gone down well with him.

Rashtrapati Bhawan had previously been in the eye of an even bigger storm over the office-of-profit Bill. The President's discomfort over the Bill - which sought to give across the board amnesty to legislators who faced disqualification for holding an office of profit - became a full-fledged embarrassment for government.

The OoP Bill was first sent to the President in May after being hastily hustled through Parliament. But Kalam had sent it back with a message and observations over the need for wide legal and constitutional consultations.

He had reasoned that the draft must have a "comprehensive criteria that is fair and reasonable" and be "universally applied"to all states and Union Territories in a clear and "transparent manner".

Given the political compulsions to save its own MPs as well as many from the Left from disqualification, the Congress leadership sent the OoP Bill back after a delay. But the episode took some of the sheen off PM Manmohan Singh's "clean"image.

Relations between government and Kalam have simply not been on even keel after the Bihar episode of mid-2005 when the President agreed, it was felt in haste, to sign a proclamation placing the state under Central rule.

The decision had been taken because Congress's key ally, RJD boss Lalu Prasad, faced the danger of his rival Nitish Kumar forming a government in the state with the help of breakaway LJP MLAs.

The decision later drew judicial censure and Kalam was understood to be deeply annoyed at what he felt was the government's move to lead him up the garden path.

He made his displeasure known to several senior political figures and while talk of his resigning did not actualise, the President has since viewed all reccomendations from government with care.

In case of judicial appointments, government can always claim that the decision is that of the SC collegium. But appointments are discussed with the government and if it has a strong objection to a particular selection, the CJI
usually takes note.

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