Salve in the firing Line

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The Gujarat Congress claims Modi government obliged Harish Salve on energy project to influence the top lawyer, reports Kunal Majumder

THE TEHELKA exposé revealing the link between Harish Salve, the Supreme Court-appointed amicus curiae in the Gujarat riots case, and the Narendra Modi government has created a political furore in the state. The Opposition led by the Congress walked out of the state Assembly on 8 March after ruling BJP MLAs didn’t allow Leader of the Opposition Shaktisinh Gohil to raise the issue on the floor of the House.

Ashish Khetan’s story (Whose Amicus is Harish Salve? 12 March) showed how Salve lobbied for Eros Energy, a company promoted by London-based billionaire Kishore Lulla, with the Gujarat government. Gohil alleges that Eros Energy got the contract that involves 200 hectares of land to set up a 25 MW solar power plant without even a tender or bid. “It is clearly a deal struck by the Gujarat government because Salve is the amicus curiae in the cases involving Chief Minister Narendra Modi. The deal has been stuck to influence and oblige the amicus curiae because Modi is guilty and scared of the Supreme Court,” Gohil told TEHELKA. He further pointed out that the Modi government has agreed to buy electricity from Eros Energy for Rs. 15 per unit when the Central government is giving power to Gujarat for just 2.20 per unit.

In his capacity as an amicus for the past eight years, Salve is supposed to assist the court in finding the truth of the Gujarat riots. It was Salve who, along with the counsel of the Gujarat government, finalised the names of the police officers who were appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) members.

After the SIT was formed in March 2008, Salve has supposedly been scrutinising the investigation and advising it on how to proceed further and nail all the culprits.

In the past few years, there has been growing number of complains against Salve. Citizens for Justice and Peace (CJP), a Mumbai-based advocacy group and one of the main petitioners before the Supreme Court, had complained that Salve had not heeded their complaints of shoddy investigation being carried out by the SIT. On 9 February 2010, senior Supreme Court lawyer Kamini Jaiswal, appearing on behalf of the riot victims, told the Supreme Court that she had no faith in Salve as an amicus.

Earlier this month, TEHELKA dug out a string of emails between Salve and senior officials of the Modi government that show Salve had routed the ambitious business proposal for Eros Energy.

The newly appointed president of Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee, Arjun Modhwadia, stopped short of demanding Salve’s removal. “He is a respected lawyer and has been appointed by the apex court. While we demand a thorough inquiry into the matter, we would request Salve to stay away from matters related to Modi,” he says.

However, the ruling BJP calls the issue a political gimmick. Instead of commenting on authenticity of the expose, the minister of state for energy Saurabh Patel chose to attack the Opposition. “They have tried to defame the Supreme Court by doubting the integrity of Salve,” he says.

Responding to the allegations that the Gujarat government is paying higher rate for purchasing solar energy from Eros Energy, Patel points out that the Central government has signed agreements with solar power companies for purchasing power at Rs. 17.91 per unit without inviting any tender.

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