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Profession or politics first: Was it fair to force Singhvi to pull out of jallikattu case?

A day after animal welfare groups moved the Supreme Court challenging Tamil Nadu’s law allowing jallikattu, Congress’ Rajya Sabha MP Abhishek Manu Singhvi was forced to step aside from the case on Thursday.

This came after the Tamil Nadu Congress unit voiced opposition to his appearance in the case, with many in the party asking him to choose between his Rajya Sabha seat and the case.

After pulling out of the case, Abhishek told the New Indian Express, “Despite my long association with animal rights cases and my appearance pro bono in all these matters, in deference to the sentiments of the Tamil Nadu unit of the Congress and the Congress party, which I deeply value and respect, I have decided to step aside and will not be appearing on Monday.”

While the senior lawyer chose to respect his party’s views and withdraw from the case, the question is – was it fair to ask Abhishek Manu Singhvi to choose between the party and his profession?

Defending the party’s opposition, S Jothimani, Tamil Nadu Congress Committee spokesperson explained, “There is a thin line between politics and one’s profession. Singhvi is the official spokesperson of Congress and is not just an MP. He is in a position to convey the official position of the Congress party. People see him as appearing in the case as a Congress person and not in his individual capacity.”

DMK spokesperson Manu Sundaram, who is also a practicing lawyer notes that one rule does not fit all, saying “It depends on the party clauses. You can’t say that the party is above profession. Who are we to say party or profession come first? If he has chosen to withdraw then who are we to question him?”  

However, he added, “I have no idea in what capacity he is speaking against jallikattu when people in his party in Tamil Nadu are speaking in support. It is a conflict, he is a party spokesperson an office bearer.”

Senior lawyer PS Raman observed, “You should not interfere with one’s professional life. If he were a doctor it wouldn’t matter. But in our profession, it is based on policy. It is a tough call. I sympathise with him but can’t blame the Congress altogether as it gives wrong feelers to the public.”

Raman pointed out that this wasn’t the first time Abhishek had to step aside from a case. In 2010, he was forced to withdraw from the lottery case in Kerala after state leaders complained to the Congress High Command.

As the opposition party in Kerala, Congress was using the lottery case to attack the ruling LDF ahead of the civic polls. Speaking then, Abhishek had said, “I wasn’t aware of the controversy here. I appeared in the case not as a party spokesman. In view of the general sentiment I have decided to withdraw.”

Source: The News Minute