Indian Express released a list of 100 powerful people to watch out for in 2011. One would normally expect Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh or Mukesh Ambani to top the list. However, the national daily has listed Chief Justice SH Kapadia as “THE” most powerful person to watch out in 2011 followed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The list also includes Senior Advocate and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley at number 13, Attorney General GE Vahanavati at 44, Fali Nariman at 48, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily at 52, Former Law Minister HR Bharadwaj at 55 and Prashant Bhushan at 61.
Indian Express released a list of 100 powerful people to watch out for in 2011. One would normally expect Sonia Gandhi or Manmohan Singh or Mukesh Ambani to top the list. However, the national daily has listed Chief Justice SH Kapadia as “THE” most powerful person to watch out in 2011 followed by Congress President Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.
The list also includes Senior Advocate and Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley at number 13, Attorney General GE Vahanavati at 44, Fali Nariman at 48, Union Law Minister Veerappa Moily at 52, Former Law Minister and present Governor of Karnataka HR Bharadwaj at 55 and Prashant Bhushan at 61.
Bar & Bench has reproduced the list of seven persons connected with the field of law.
1. SH KAPADIA, 63
Chief Justice of India
He is number one on the list because as CJI he represents the Supreme Court’s power. At a time when so much of politics is being determined by judicial pronouncements — and even observations — related to headline-grabbing court cases, the number one judge and the court he runs have become the country’s most influential arbiter. His and his court’s decisions can determine how government and politics are affected by the 2G scandal, or whether the CVC, PJ Thomas, will go and take a big chunk of UPA credibility with him. The SC will also take significant decisions on the privacy vs public interest debate and perhaps on industrial projects vs environment laws too. The apex court has never been as hugely crucial in determining policy and politics as in recent times. Therefore, a CJI has never been as powerful as he is now.
He took less than a minute to decide, after hearing lengthy arguments, that the Allahabad High Court’s verdict on the Ayodhya title suit must be pronounced; threats of violence could not be an excuse.
Court business-wise, his word on the CVC will be the first of many big judicial calls this year. Administration-wise, he is keen to provide decent infrastructure to the lowest courts.
By the way
He once refused an invitation to open a judicial conference abroad because the event fell on a working day.
13. Arun Jaitley, 58
Leader of Opposition, Rajya Sabha
He’s back in the top 20 this year and posts a huge jump of 42 places because with the BJP again looking like an Opposition that could trouble the government, his strategising skills are as crucial as his public speaking skills. In and outside Parliament, and in states like Bihar, where he worked closely with Nitish Kumar, and Karnataka, where he subdued a rebellion against Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa, his political abilities are in demand.
When the Nuclear Liability Bill was stuck, it was his redrafting suggestions on the clause relating to suppliers’ liability that broke the Congress-BJP logjam.
In charge of BJP’s Bengal and Assam poll strategies. His inputs are crucial as the BJP responds to the “saffron terror” probe; he advocated that the party be moderate on this issue.
By the way
Not many people turn down an invitation to speak in Davos. He did.
44. Goolam E Vahanvati, 61
Attorney-General of India
He goes up in the list because his job has become more important, given the many legal fronts on which the government is on the defensive. He’s the most able officer the government can field when judges ask tough questions.
When the PMO came under fire during the 2G controversy, with allegations of “inaction” against A Raja, he argued that the 2G petitioner should have petitioned a court rather than write to the PM about Raja.
Arguing the government’s position in the CVC’s appointment case — a tough job.
By the way
Has a real fondness for classy ties.
48. Fali S Nariman, 82
His is a judicial voice still heard and respected but he goes down the list because the context of the judiciary-executive relationship has changed, with the apex court now examining several cases of official venality. And the judiciary’s own problems, on which his voice is most heard, are not in focus. However, with all the allegations surrounding relatives of an ex-CJI, and judicial reforms still pending, he remains a key figure.
In his book, Before Memory Fades, he admitted he regrets having taken Union Carbide’s brief in the litigation on the Bhopal gas tragedy — a rare kind of admission in Indian public life.
He’s India’s lawyer in the International Court of Justice in The Hague in the dispute with Pakistan on the Kishenganga hydel project.
By the way
He’s an avid swimmer.
52. Veerappa Moily, 71
Union Law Minister
He falls in the list because this media-friendly minister’s job was coveted by some colleagues during the recent Cabinet reshuffle and serious thought was given to the merits and demerits of such a change. He retained his job but his future is not as certain as he would like it to be. Still, he remains a pleasant change after HR Bhardwaj’s stint as law minister. And no one doubts his sincerity in working on key bills proposing reform of the judiciary and the justice delivery system.
When the Cabinet was debating caste-based census, his was one of the loudest voices supporting the move. The proposal was cleared.
Piloting bills that address judicial accountability and afford more legal rights to victims of heinous crimes will be his priority this year.
By the way
A prolific author, he was described by his publisher at the latest book launch as a best-selling writer.
55. HR Bhardwaj, 74
Governor of Karnataka
He enters the list because he has posed more of a challenge to the ruling BJP government in Karnataka than the entire Opposition put together. He has taken on Chief Minister BS Yeddyurappa over issues of corruption and illegal mining, leaving the government embarrassed and worried.
He sanctioned the prosecution of Karnataka chief minister to the latter’s rage. Last year, he recommended dismissal of the government and then gave it a second chance to prove its numbers.
He has a fight on his hands, with the BJP accusing him of being a political governor.
By the way
He is the author of several books, including Soul of India, Crime, Criminal Justice And Human Rights and Law, Lawyers and Judges.
61. Prashant Bhushan, 54
There are few high-profile current cases capable of influencing politics and policy which don’t feature him somewhere. He rises further up the list because he’s even more influential now as a lawyer-activist than he was last year. 2G, CVC, judges assets — he’s a lawyer in all of them. He’s become the lawyer who everyone expects will be involved in the most complex questions asked of the establishment.
He caught the government by surprise when he introduced CAG’s report on 2G during court hearings.
He is expected to argue Binayak Sen’s case in the Supreme Court, which is yet another high-profile, high-voltage issue. Will also be in the thick of things as the cases on alleged official venality wind their way through the courts.
Has the list missed out any lawyers who you think should be included in the top 100? Do comment and let us know.