The recent appointment of SN Mookherjee as Advocate General for West Bengal, a State that has seen much turmoil in the political arena of late, raised many an eyebrow. And the Senior Advocate admits that he was surprised himself.
Hailing from a family with a BJP background, the senior lawyer who now espouses the cause of the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government before the courts, maintains that he is an "apolitical person".
Interestingly, before his appointment as AG, Mookherjee had appeared on behalf of Mamata Banerjee in her election petition against the BJP's Suvendu Adhikari. He had sought the recusal of Justice Kausik Chanda, on the ground that the judge was an active BJP functionary as a lawyer before he was elevated to the Bench.
In this interview with Bar & Bench's Debayan Roy, Mookherjee says that he believes judges should themselves recuse from such sensitive case, if they have had political affiliations in the past.
Mookherjee also does not shy away from making observations on deteriorating Centre-State relations, and how his faith in current Prime Minister Narendra Modi has diminished over the years.
Excerpts from the interview follow.
On Centre-State relations and the Prime Minister
"The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government was the only one which did not use institutions to put pressure on State governments of a different dispensation."
"There was faith in Atal Bihari Vajpayee and the opposition also had faith. It was unfortunate that we did not vote him back to power."
"The faith in the current Prime Minister has continuously diminished. I don't think any State not ruled by party at Centre has much faith in the Centre."
On master of roster power
"There has not been abuse of master of roster power (by any Chief Justice) to such an extent that it needs a relook."
On corporate law battles
"The most important jurisdiction of corporate law, that is shareholders actions, is dead today. It has now given way to insolvency petitions."
Message to young lawyers
Four qualities are crucial to prosper in the legal profession - humility, being fair to the court, hard work and respecting the opponent.