Mr. Ray’s central point that the Coalgate PIL involves two distinct aspects is a distinction without a difference. The case is one. Professional responsibility applies to every aspect of it. The AG was defending the government. He may have considered it prudent to distance himself from the prosecuting agency. Instead, he advised the CBI more than once, as stated in the CBI Director’s affidavit which I quote:

“The issue of status report was first discussed in meeting of [the Law Minister] in the first week of February, 2013. . . . Ld. AG suggested that an application should be made to the Court for modification of the order and to place the Report in sealed cover. . . Thereafter, on March 6, 2013 . . . [t]he Ld. ASG was present in the meeting while the Ld. AG joined later. . . Since the Ld. AG had to leave, the Hon’ble Minister suggested that the Status Reports may be shown to Ld. AG later. . . On the same day in the afternoon, on receiving a message from our counsel, Ld. ASG, [CBI Officers] went to the residential office of Ld. AG. . . Ld. AG glanced through portions of the Status Reports . . . He made certain observations which were explained to him. He also suggested certain minor changes in the Status Report of PE 2. . .Besides, a few changes were also done on the suggestion of Ld. AG and officials of PMO and Ministry of Coal.”

The ethical issue raised by me was not about the quality or quantity of advice, but whether it should have been given at all. Q.E.D.

(Shyam Divan is a senior advocate.)

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