GE Vahanvati, former attorney general, dies aged 65
He had resigned on 27 May after the BJP government headed by Narendra Modi assumed power at the Centre
New Delhi: Former attorney general of India, Goolam Essaji Vahanvati, died in Mumbai on Tuesday of a heart attack after a long and prolific career in law that had its share of controversy. He was 65.
Before becoming the top law officer of the country, Vahanvati served as the solicitor general; he was earlier advocate general for the state of Maharashtra.
“In his demise, India has lost an eminent legal luminary, a dedicated public servant and a very decent human being,” former prime minister Manmohan Singh said in a statement. It was during Singh’s term that Vahanvati, the first Muslim to become India’s attorney general, attracted controversy.
Former telecom secretary Siddharth Behura, one of the accused in the case related to irregularities in the allocation of 2G spectrum and licences, accused him of giving false statements to disassociate himself from the controversial
“first come, first served” policy adopted for granting the licences. Vahanvati was cleared of allegations by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
In 2013, another controversy surfaced when Communist Party of India (CPI) leader Gurudas Dasgupta accused Vahanvati of failing to disclose a foreign bank account he had allegedly opened in Singapore, noting that as attorney general he represented the government in cases related to retrieval of black money. Vahanvati served a legal notice on Dasgupta, which was followed by the latter submitting a privilege notice against the then attorney general for seeking to obstruct his performance as member of parliament.
On Tuesday, legal associates recalled Vahanvati’s contribution to law rather than the controversies associated with him.
“He stood apart from other lawyers. He was an original thinker and as a law officer, he worked so hard keeping the government’s interest (in mind),” said Mohan Parasaran, who was solicitor general when Vahanvati was attorney general. “We all expected that he’d be back in private practice now. This loss is very great to the legal community.”
Lawyer Gopal Subramaniam said that it was a “great personal loss” for him. “He was an outstanding lawyer, very immaculate and very disciplined. The legal profession has lost an eminent figure.” he added.
Vahanvati is survived by his wife and a son.
PTI and Mint’s Shauvik Ghosh contributed to this story.