It took some time for the Central Bureau of Investigation to 'convince' senior Supreme Court advocate Uday U Lalit to take on the mantle for the premier agency's trial in the 2G spectrum case.
Lalit was appointed as the special public prosecutor by the Supreme Court on Monday despite reservations by the Centre.
The CBI was pressed for time to find a suitable lawyer for the position as the services of most prominent lawyers had been hired by the many accused in the scam or the corporate firms under the agency's scanner.
CBI sources said that when they appealed to Lalit, he was initially reluctant to take up the case. The CBI told the Supreme Court that Lalit agreed to fight the case only after the agency's officials convinced him that he would be carrying out a public duty by doing so.
Talking to rediff.com, the senior lawyer said, "I was initially reluctant due to some personal reasons. It had nothing to with the trial."
The Centre had voiced its discomfort about Lalit's appointment as the special public prosecutor, claiming that he was not eligible to be appointed for such a post. The Centre had pointed out that he was not eligible to fight the case as it required him to have worked under a state or central government for at least seven years.
The Supreme Court had shot down the objection, noting that it was too technical.
Justifying the government's objection, Attorney General G E Vahanvati had contended in front of the Supreme Court bench that any of the accused could later challenge the appointment.
When rediff.com asked Lalit if his appointment could lead to delays if challenged by the accused, he said, "I don't foresee any such problem. As far as I am concerned, these are objections which had been raised by the government and later put to rest by the Supreme Court order."
The lawyer remained tight-lipped about why the government had opposed his appointment so strongly, saying, "The judges have made their decision. It will not be right for me to comment now."
He gave the same response when asked why the CBI and the Enforcement Directorate were pushing for his appointment.
Sources said that the CBI was under intense pressure to find a prosecutor after the agency realised that most of the senior Supreme Court lawyers they had approached had been hired by the accused or the telecom companies being investigated.
Senior Supreme Court lawyers said that the government was reluctant about Lalit's appointment because of some of the people he had defended in his career.
The biggest objection that the government may have against Lalit is the fact that he is representing Pune-based businessman Hasan Ali Khan, who is accused of massive money laundering and tax evasion.
"UU Lalit has been appointed as a special public prosecutor in a case which itself is investigating money laundering. In addition to this, the CBI is also investigating terror charges against Hasan Ali, who Lalit is defending. This could be perceived as a conflict of interest," a senior Supreme Court lawyer told rediff.com.
Lalit has also represented former Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh in the Amritsar Improvement Trust land scam. He had also represented ex-cricketer Navjot Singh Sidhu in a 1988 case in which Sidhu had been found guilty of beating a man to death over an altercation.
The lawyer also represented Salman Khan in the black buck poaching case. He has also appeared for former Gujarat home minister Amit Shah in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case.