In this issue of IAMC News Roundup
- After resignation, special prosecutor in Dipda Darwaja riot case does a rethink
- Dara Singh case: BJP leader named in charge sheet
- Contentious issues bog down Lokpal Bill panel
- Ramdev being remote-controlled by Sangh Parivar: Congress
- Ramdev’s eviction sets off political war of words
- Court moved for probe against Maran in telecom case
- Judicial magistrate convicted of corruption
- Varun Gandhi charged with inciting communal hatred during 2009 Lok Sabha polls
- Activist Navlakha detained, charged with Section 144
- Minorities are made ministers to fill quota: Sultan Ahmed
Opinions & Editorials
- ‘RSS wanted to burn Ramdev’s anti-corruption camp, trigger Gujarat like riots in India’ – By Md. Ali
- Corruption disease – By Bhaskar Ghose
- Citizen Cane Vs King Canute – By Saikat Datta
- Target communalism: An attempt to bell the cat – By Nadim Nikhat
- India: Whither Liberty! – By Ram Puniyani
- Political plots – By Ravi Sharma
After resignation, special prosecutor in Dipda Darwaja riot case does a rethink (Jun 2, 2011, Indian Express)
The Special Public Prosecutor (SPP) in the 2002 Dipda Darwaja Massacre Case in Mehsana district, P R Agrawal , who had written to R K Raghvan – chairman of the Supreme Court appointed Special Investigation Team (SIT) – to be relieved from the case, has now decided to withdraw his letter. Sources said Agrawal wrote another letter to this effect to Raghvan on Tuesday. Agrawal confirmed having sent the the letter. He said he has also asked Raghvan to give him a personal hearing if the latter wants to consider his earlier communication. Agrawal had on May 17 written to Raghvan seeking permission to withdraw from the case as the SPP. He had cited the non-cooperation by the trial judge S C Srivastava to hear the prosecution arguments in the case.
He had said that the the trial judge had shown unwillingness to hear his arguments and after that the witnesses and the victims had given an application to change him as the SPP after expressing their dissatisfaction with his arguments. “Such a situation was offending and therefore I wrote to him (Raghvan) seeking permission to resign,” said Agrawal.
He added that recently the victims and the witnesses in the case had written a letter to the Supreme Court – a copy of which was marked to him too – where they did not show any dissatisfaction towards him. “Therefore, I have decided to withdraw my request seeking permission to resign as the SPP in the case,” said Agrawal. In his latest communication, he has requested Raghvan to give him a personal hearing before taking any decision on his May 17 letter. He expressed his willingness to explain to Raghvan the situation created by certain persons ‘acting in favour of the accused persons’ in the case.
- Judge refuses to hear bail plea (May 31, 2011, Times of India)
- Anand district judge resigns, leaving judgment orphaned (May 31, 2011, The Hindu)
- Muslim body finds scenes in Gujarati film offensive (May 31, 2011, Times of India)
- Civil Society to stage protest for security cover to Gujarat cop (Jun 2, 2011, Twocircles.net)
The Central Bureau of Investigation on Friday named Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader and former Rajasthan minister Rajendra Singh Rathore in its charge sheet for 2006 Dara Singh shootout case. The CBI claimed that Dara Singh, a hard core criminal, was gunned down in a fake gunbattle by a team of Rajasthan Police’s special operations group in October 2006.
The agency has named 16 others for the killing. These include Additional Director General of Police A.K. Jain, Inspector General A. Ponnuchami – both Indian Police Service officers – Additional Superintendent of Police Arsad Ali, police inspectors Nisar Khan and Naresh Sharma, assistant sub-inspector Surendra Singh, sub-inspector Satyanarayan Godara and seven other policemen.
Ajay Kumar Jain, advocate for some policemen, said that Rathore’s name has been mentioned as the conspirator, but the CBI has said that investigations against him are yet to be completed. “Others have been made accused in the charge sheet,” Jain added. The CBI has arrested six policemen – A. Ponnuchami, Nisar Khan, Naresh Sharma, Surendra Singh and Satyanarayan Godara, sub inspector Munshi Lal – in the case.
A court had earlier issued warrants against seven other policemen – Rajesh Choudhary, Subash Godara, Zulfikar, Arvind, Badri Prasad, Jagraj and Sardar Singh. Dara Singh’s widow had filed a case in Jaipur against the policemen, alleging the shootout in which he was killed was staged. The Supreme Court had handed over the investigations in the case to the CBI.
- 14 Rajasthan policemen charged in Dara Singh fake encounter case (Jun 4, 2011, Economic Times)
- CBI files charge-sheet in Dara Singh encounter case (Jun 3, 2011, Rediff)
- CBI wants to grill ‘hitmen’ in Popular Builders firing case (Jun 4, 2011, Express India)
- Book Andhra Guv for Azad Encounter: Maoist Ideologue (Jun 2, 2011, Outlook)
The Joint Drafting Committee on the Lokpal Bill on Monday for the first time got bogged down by contentious issues. The UPA government opposed scrutiny by the Lokpal of the Prime Minister, the higher judiciary and acts of MPs inside Parliament – in the context of seeking cash for votes and for raising questions – and, as a way out, embarked on wider consultations. Both Union Minister for Human Resource Development Kapil Sibal, who briefed the media on behalf of the government, and representatives of civil society Arvind Kejriwal and advocate Prashant Bhushan separately said the next meetings on June 6 and 10 would be an attempt at resolving these issues after eliciting the opinions of the States, political parties and the general public.
Both sides admitted divergence of opinion on four of the five contentious issues discussed at the fifth meeting of the committee, and the expression of the two sides on the deliberations was equally at variance. Mr. Sibal stressed the guiding principle of the exercise was the supremacy of the Constitution and any Lokpal Bill had to be consistent with the Constitution. On the other hand, both Mr. Kejriwal and Mr. Bhushan pointed out the government’s opposition to most of their proposals and expressed disappointment at the government’s “not very reasonable” response at the meeting.
But the civil society members took a tough stand later and issued a warning to the government that they would attend the next few meetings in a bid to persuade the government to agree to a strong and effective Lokpal Bill, but if disagreement persisted they would take to the streets. In a statement, they described Monday’s meeting as “quite disastrous” and expressed shock at the stand taken by the Ministers on various issues. “Definitely, the government’s intentions are suspect,” they charged and issued an appeal to the people to be prepared “for the next huge movement in the country.” Anna Hazare, whose indefinite fast forced constitution of the JDC on the Lokpal Bill, was apprehensive of the government meeting the deadline of formulating the Bill by June-end and regretted the slow approach of the government.
Refusing to divulge details of the discussions, Mr. Sibal said the issues centred on Parliament, the judiciary and the Public Service Commission, and the opinions were divergent. It was regarded necessary to elicit the opinion of the States and political parties before seeking to resolve them at the next two meetings of the JDC. He contended that since the States appointed the Lokayukt, it was necessary to know the States’ perception on the Lokpal. Stressing on a practical approach for taking forward the exercise for a strong legislation, as corruption was an issue that concerned the people, Mr. Sibal said the government was committed to an effective Lokpal.
- Who’s afraid of the Lokpal Bill? (Jun 2, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Is it the end of the road for the Lokpal panel? (May 31, 2011, IBN)
- ‘Catch the big fish first’ (Jun 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- 80% Want CBI Under Lokpal (Jun 13, 2011, Outlook)
With Baba Ramdev starting his protest fast on Saturday morning, ignoring government pleas to call it off, Congress accused the yoga guru of being remote-controlled by Sangh Parivar as part of an attempt to destabilise the Centre. AICC spokesman Abhishek Singhvi said, “It is most unfortunate that this common crusade against corruption is allowed to be remote-controlled or hijacked by vested political interests. The nation is aghast to see that BJP, RSS and their frontal organisations which have repeatedly failed to get popular mandate are trying to destabilise the government.”
Singhvi’s statement showed that Congress’s silence on Baba Ramdev was a restraint to buffer the sensitively poised negotiations with the yoga guru from extraneous factors amid hope that he may not go on a fast after assurances on his demands. But Baba’s decision to execute his protest plan saw the party cast aside the caution, thereby endorsing AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh whose critical voice against Baba was seen more of an autonomous action than the approved party line. The Saturday switch in Congress’s restrained mood matched the ruling establishment’s rising anxiety over Baba’s plan, letting go the gag order on leaders.
While the presence of Sadhvi Ritambhara raised eyebrows, Digvijay Singh raised the pitch on his charge that Baba was an RSS front. “Now, it is absolutely clear as to what are the credentials of Baba Ramdev. He is openly supported by RSS, BJP and VHP,” he said, adding that the five-star satyagraha was far removed from what Mahatma Gandhi practised.
Union minister Beni Prasad Verma also slammed the high protocol accorded to Baba. He said, “Congress should prepare for a confrontation. We are bigger than Ramdev. Therefore, a rally should be organised in Delhi and other parts of the country against Ramdev.” Party MP and National Commission for SCs chairman PL Punia accused Baba of aiming for political objectives through the agitation against graft. “He sees himself in competition with Anna Hazare and feels left behind. So he is doing all this,” Punia said.
- Prashant Bhushan unhappy with Sadhvi sharing dais with Ramdev (Jun 4, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Ramdev is a front for RSS’ activities: Lalu (Jun 5, 2011, Times of India)
- Communal forces’ link with Ramdev’s fast undesirable: Bhushan Jr (Jun 5, 2011, Express India)
- Baba Ramdev betrayal sparks doom gloom in RSS (Jun 5, 2011, India Today)
The dramatic eviction of Baba Ramdev in the middle of night in a swoop by Delhi police on Sunday set off a slugfest between the UPA and the Sangh Parivar and the yoga guru who announced that he would continue his agitation against black money. The first political fallout of the police action was the decision of civil society activists led by Anna Hazare to boycott Monday’s meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee on Lokpal and the threat to resume the agitation in Jantar Mantar. The police action of firing teargas shells and lathicharge on people in the Ramlila Maidan who were woken up in their sleep in the dead of the night drew sharply critical attacks from BJP and chief ministers Mayawati, Nitish Kumar, Prakash Singh Badal and Naveen Patnaik and former CMs Mulayam Singh Yadav and Chandrababu Naidu.
But the government and the Congress came out in strong defence of the decision to evict the 46-year-old Ramdev and legions of his followers, accusing him of going back on his word of withdrawing his fast after reaching an understanding on the issue of measures to bring back black money stashed abroad. The political war erupted hours after Ramdev, who jumped from a three-metre-high podium and tried to escape disguised as a woman, was served with an externment order that barred him entry into the capital for a fortnight. He was bundled into a police van before dawn and flown to Haridwar in a small plane. The police action came after the government and Ramdev traded barbs accusing each other of betrayal.
With the government decision drawing flak, Congress leadership met at the Prime Minister’s residence which was attended by Sonia Gandhi and senior cabinet ministers. The top BJP leadership met in the capital and condemned the police action, saying it reminded the days of Emergency. Over 60 people including 23 policemen were injured in the action. Ramdev claimed a Gurgaon resident has been paralysed in the police attack and a woman from Andhra Pradesh has suffered injuries in both her legs. The midnight action triggered a war of words between government and the Sangh Parivar which threw its full weight behind the yoga guru. The government, which cited intelligence inputs of terror threat to Ramdev’s life, ruled out further talks with him saying he was getting “unreasonable”.
Civil society activists led by Anna Hazare, who are currently leading a campaign for a strong Lokpal Bill, decided not to participate in the meeting of the Joint Drafting Committee with ministers in protest against the police action. Support for Ramdev came from from chief ministers including Mayawati, Narendra Modi, Nitish Kumar and former chief ministers Chandrababu Naidu and Mulayam Singh Yadav. However, Congress guns blazed against Ramdev with party general secretary Digvijay Singh accusing him of inciting people despite striking a deal with the government for ending his protest. Calling him a “fraud”, Singh demanded an inquiry into the “thousands of crores of rupees” of property said to be owned by Ramdev.
Subodh Kant Sahay, said to be close to Ramdev and was one of the union ministers negotiating with him, charged him with going back on his word to end the fast and pursuing a political agenda. He ruled out further talks with Ramdev saying whatever talks had to happen has already happened. The other minister Kapil Sibal, part of the negotiating team, said the action had the full backing of the government and the party. “Absolutely 100%. No such action takes place without 100% unity in the government and the party,” he told reporters when asked whether the action had the endorsement of the party.
- Centre justifies crackdown (Jun 5, 2011, Deccan Herald)
- Ramdev a ‘face of RSS’, says govt justifying crackdown (Jun 5, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Civil society group to skip Lokpal meet after police brutality (Jun 5, 2011, Tehelka)
- Congress takes on Ramdev; slams BJP, RSS (Jun 4, 2011, IBN)
The Centre for Public Interest Litigation, whose PILs have helped drive ongoing criminal investigations into the 2G scam, moved the Supreme Court on Wednesday to demand a CBI probe into allegations that the grant of licences to Aircel by Dayanidhi Maran when he was Telecom Minister was on the basis of a ” quid pro quo.” In a new petition filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, the CPIL said Tehelka magazine, in its June 4, 2011 issue, had published a cover story in which “a serious case has been made out against” Mr. Maran during the time he was Telecom Minister between May 23, 2004 and May 15, 2007.
In November 2006, the DoT issued 14 Letters of Intent to Aircel, and all of them were converted into licences in December 2006. “Within three months of this,” Tehelka said, “Mr. Maran’s family owned business (Sun) received substantial investment from Maxis Group (Aircel) by taking 20 per cent equity in Sun Direct. The FIPB approved this investment on March 2 and 19, 2007. Maxis Group invested a total of Rs.599.01 crore in Sun Direct between December 2007 and December 2009.
A Maxis Group company (Astro, through its wholly owned company, South Asia Multimedia Technologies Ltd.) also made an investment of Rs.11.28 crore in South Asia FM Ltd (SAFL), an FM company owned by the Maran group, which had licences to own and operate 23 FM radio stations in India. These transactions show a clear quid pro quo for getting the UAS licences by Maxis Group,” it alleged. The application further said the CBI had conducted an investigation into the 2G scam and filed two charge sheets with 17 persons/companies charged as accused. In its second charge sheet, the CBI had provided details as to how the DB Realty Group, one of the beneficiaries of the 2G spectrum scam, had routed Rs.200 crore as bribe money to Kalaignar TV.
It said “the shareholders of Kalaignar TV are: Mrs. Dayalu [Ammal] Karunanidhi (60 per cent), Ms. Kanimozhi Karunanidhi (20 per cent), and Mr. Sharad Kumar (20 per cent). While the CBI has made Mr. Sharad as Accused No. 16, and Ms. Kanimozhi as Accused No. 17, it has not charge-sheeted Mrs. Dayalu, who is the wife of Mr. M. Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the chief of DMK.” The petition alleged that Mrs. Dayalu Ammal had been deliberately not made an accused by the CBI. It cited a news report dated May 10, 2011 stating that she was present at the Board meeting when the critical decisions were taken by Kalaignar TV.
On the DMK president’s wife Rajathi Ammal, the petition alleged that the CBI had apparently cleared her though a clear case of quid pro quo had been established. It alleged that the Tatas had transferred a land in Chennai at much below market price to the family of Mr. Karunanidhi. Mrs. Rajathi Ammal’s conversation with Tata’s lobbyist Niira Radia was intercepted and became public wherein the transfer of the said land figured. The said conversation and the facts relating to the said transfer were already on record. “It appears that she and Tatas are being shielded by the CBI.” The petitioner wanted the application to be taken on record and a direction to pass appropriate orders on it.
- 2G scam: CBI may file chargesheet against Maran (Jun 2, 2011, IBN)
- Spectrum: CBI looking into issue from 2001 to 2007 (Jun 2, 2011, The Hindu)
- 2G accused Balwa wants to depose before JPC (Jun 2, 2011, IBN)
- Adarsh data: CBI looks to pvt firm for forensic help (Jun 1, 2011, Indian Express)
A Judicial Magistrate (First Class) was on Monday convicted by the Ahmedabad (rural) special sessions court on the charges of corruption and amassment of wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income and sentenced to two years rigorous imprisonment. According to the proceedings of the case, Premji Gohil, who was serving in a court at Bulsar district’s Pardi in 2002, was found, by the Gujarat High Court vigilance department, of indulging in corrupt practices.
An inquiry was instituted after a number of lawyers in Bulsar submitted a series of written complaints against Gohil to the vigilance department. The department filed a charge sheet in 2005, which also named his wife, Shobhna, and brother-in-law, Pradip Makwana, for alleged abetment in crime. The department, in its report, had maintained that Gohil had collected Rs.35 lakh from a couple in the form of a “gift deed” and used the money to buy a house in Mangrol. The department also maintained that Gohil had amassed more assets than could be justified by his known sources of income. The charge sheet alleged that the unaccounted-for assets were obtained through illegal means.
The charge sheet contained 42 documentary evidences and statements from 36 witnesses. However, in convicting Gohil, the court primarily relied on the documents relating to his property registration and the gift deed. Prosecution maintained that the gift deed was possibly “cooked up” to provide Gohil an escape route; however, a judicial officer accepting such a gift, in itself, was a crime.
The court acquitted Gohil’s wife and brother-in-law for want of evidence. While convicting Gohil, the court observed that being a judicial officer, he should have informed the High Court about his properties but had not done so because of “malafide intentions.”
- Judge gets jail in graft case (May 31, 2011, Times of India)
- 17 judges sacked. Was it because of their caste? (May 28, 2011, Tehelka)
- No conviction only on ground of tainted money: SC (Jun 2, 2011, Indian Express)
- Welfare Party to mobilize people against corruption in Lucknow (Jun 2, 2011, Twocircles.net)
Varun Gandhi charged with inciting communal hatred during 2009 Lok Sabha polls (May 31, 2011, DNA India)
A local court in Pilibhit has framed charges against BJP MP Varun Gandhi in connection with the alleged hate speeches made by him during campaigning for the 2009 Lok Sabha polls. Chief judicial magistrate (CJM) Ajay Krishna, while hearing the case yesterday, ordered the prosecution to produce witnesses while fixing July 6 as the next date of hearing.
The charges were framed against Gandhi under various sections of IPC including 505/2 (inciting communal hatred), 153 (a) (levelling allegations against specific community), 295 (a) (deliberate and malicious act intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religious beliefs).
Charges were also framed against Gandhi under People’s Representation Act. An FIR was registered against the BJP MP on March 17, 2009 on the orders of the Election Commission during Lok Sabha polls. Gandhi surrendered in Pilibhit on March 28, 2009 and NSA was slapped on him on the next day. He was released on bail on April 16, 2009.
- Civil war raging in BJP: Congress (May 29, 2011, The Hindu)
- ‘While Karnataka burns with corruption, the Neros of BJP fiddle’ (May 28, 2011, Rediff)
- CBI wants to grill ‘hitmen’ in Popular Builders firing case (Jun 3, 2011, Express India)
- Handcuffed, cop accused in Sohrabuddin killing case moves court for contempt (May 31, 2011, Indian Express)
Human rights activist Gautam Navlakha was on Saturday restrained from entering Kashmir and stopped at the Srinagar airport, on the orders of the Budgam district magistrate. “Navlakha’s movement was restricted under Section 144 of the CrPC issued by Budgam district magistrate. Navlakha’s presence could disturb order and peace in Kashmir,” said senior superintendent of police (SSP) Uttam Chand. Section 144 can be imposed against an individual or a group of people to prevent obstruction, annoyance of injury to any person lawfully employed, or danger to human life, health or safety, or a disturbance of the public tranquility, or a riot, or an at-fray.
Navlakha, convenor of the International Tribunal on Human Rights and Justice in Kashmir and editorial consultant of the Economic and Political Weekly, was stopped at Srinagar airport when he arrived from Delhi around 1:50 pm and was not allowed to move out. “I had come on holidays along with my friend Sehba Hussain. I am outraged. It shows paranoia is unbecoming of the state authorities when there is talk of normalcy and return of tourists. I will challenge it in the court,” Navlakha told Hindustan Times on phone from the Srinagar airport.
Navlakha has been asked to return to Delhi. “We have booked tickets for tomorrow to return to Delhi and will stay at some corner at the airport only for the night,” said Sehba Hussain. Navlakha has been writing about Kashmir for several years now and was involved in many human rights initiatives, like the case of unmarked graves in Kashmir. His last public speech was in Srinagar on October 24, 2010 where he talked about the summer uprising in a seminar titled ‘Withering Kashmir’.
New Delhi based rights activists have taken strong exception to Navlakha’s restriction. “We need to ask for a stop to this senseless, outrageous harassment,” said documentary film-maker Sanjay Kak, who released a book on Kashmir this week in Delhi. Peoples Democratic Party has also condemned the action. “This was an unprecedented action even by the standards of serious rights violations in Jammu & Kashmir. avlakha’s liberty to enter into the state and move freely should be restored as even in worst phases of trouble. Such draconian methods have never been adopted,” said a PDP spokesman.
- Rights activist’s detention criticised (May 31, 2011, The Hindu)
- Gandhi’s statue desecrated in Mussoorie, two held (May 30, 2011, IBN)
- BJP keeps Ayodhya temple issue out of political agenda (Jun 3, 2011, New Kerala)
- US court sets Sep 21 for pre-trial in 1984 riots case (May 31, 2011, Times of India)
Union Minister of State for Tourism Sultan Ahmed today complained that Muslims were not getting due representation in the governments at Centre and in the states and said the minorities were being allocated ministerial berths “only for the purpose fulfilling the quota”.
“The Muslims are not being paid due attention for ensuring their representation in the Central and state governments. They are being allotted ministerial berths fill up quota,” Ahmed said while addressing a seminar on “Challenges of Minorities” organised by a private TV channel.”In the central and state governments, Muslims are always being ignored as they are not being allocated the lesser important portfolios,” he said.
Ahmed, a Trinamool Congress (TC) leader of West Bengal, also launched a direct attack on his party ally – Congress saying “the same thing has been done in rule of the grand old party”.He said TC had encouraged Muslims and raised their confidence. It is evident from the fact out of 294 MLAs, 59 have been Muslims in West Bengal now, he said.
- Muslims backward due to discrimination, historical events: Muslim leaders (Jun 2, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Ramvilas Paswan demands implementation of Sachchar Committee report (Jun 2, 2011, DNA India)
- Minority Affairs Ministry asked to arrange land, funds for new varsities (May 25, 2011, The Hindu)
- Muslims’ tryst with civil services (May 30, 2011, DNA India)
Opinions and Editorials
‘RSS wanted to burn Ramdev’s anti-corruption camp, trigger Gujarat like riots in India’ – By Md. Ali (Jun 3, 2011, Twocircles.net)
In an absolutely shocking and disturbing revelation, a conspiracy has been alleged according to which the Rashtriya Swaysewak Sangh (RSS) had planned to burn Ramdev’s anti-corruption camp in Delhi at about 3 am on June 5, and trigger post-Godhra like riots across the country. It was only when the government got to know about this sinister conspiracy that it was forced to pre-empt and thwart the Saffron attempt of bloodshed across the country. Talking to TwoCircles.net, Shabnam Hashmi, the senior social activist alleged, “I have got hundred percent confirmed news, that the RSS had done all the preparations to burn Ramdev’s anti-corruption camp in Delhi at about 3 am on 5th June. After that in the communally sensitive atmosphere their plan was to stage post-Godhra like riots across the country.”
Hashmi further said that it’s an open secret that “RSS wants to make whole India another Gujarat. Burning Ramdev’s anti-corruption camp would certainly have charged the communal atmosphere across the country which was precisely what the RSS wanted to manipulate to stage communal riots and bring about complete communal polarization of people of India.” Anhad activists said that, “Had RSS been successful in its sinister plans the country would have seen the worst times in its history because the mother of saffron ideology had a well chalked out plans to stage communal riots post burning of Ramdev’s camp.”
She further demanded from the government to come clean on this, “It’s a very serious matter and the government of India which certainly knows about this failed RSS plan, needs to come out clean on this issue. It was only when they got to know about it that they evicted Ramdev at about 1:30 am, around few hours early from the RSS’ scheduled plan to burn the camp.” When asked about what are the evidences she has to substantiate this allegation, Hashmi said that, “We have been asked the same question few years back when we raised the issue of saffron terrorism and now the issue of saffron terror is out in public. I am not a fool who will put her 30 years of activism on stake by speaking thing which don’t have any base but I can’t reveal my source. It’s for the government to dig things further and take strong action against those who want to disturb and destroy the secular fabric of the country.”
Hashmi also raised the RSS conspiracy on two national news channels after which she was flooded with series of questions on the evidences she had to substantiate the allegations. “Another serious issue at stake here is, in what direction India is going? Do we want to give our country into hands of Mullahs and Babas and Sadhus and turn it into another Pakisatn?” Hashmi questioned. Shabnam Hashmi was also skeptical when it comes to raising the RSS conspiracy, “It is highly likely that the mainstream media is going to sideline this issue,which if happens, would be unfortunate for the future of secular and democratic India.”
- After the midnight madness, the saffron morning – By G Sampath (Jun 5, 2011, DNA India)
- Passion Play – Editorial (Jun 3, 2011, Times of India)
- Godfellas II: A series on gurus and their politics – By Revati Laul (Jun 11, 2011, Tehelka)
Corruption. A word that has been used so often that its meaning has been blunted – now it causes no reaction and creates little interest, let alone concern. And yet it is present in every part of the numerous systems and institutions through which society functions; in our municipal bodies and in practically all public agencies that issue permits or licences or no-objection certificates or, for that matter, any certificates of any kind. It exists in hospitals, educational bodies and in the very systems meant to prevent it and apprehend those who are guilty of it. It exists, as we have sadly discovered, in our armed forces, even at very high levels. Recently, the World Bank issued a report in which it has said that a good deal of India’s much-vaunted development is ineffective as projects and schemes are corroded by this crippling disease of corruption; benefits do not go to the actual beneficiaries. The BBC quoted this report in a story on May 18 in which one of its correspondents, Jill McGivering, said: “Attempts by the Indian government to combat poverty are not working, according to the World Bank. The governing coalition spends billions of dollars – more than 2 per cent of its gross domestic product [GDP] – on helping the poor. But a new World Bank report says aid programmes are beset by corruption, bad administration and underpayments. As an example, the report cites the issue of grain distribution: only 40 per cent of grain meant for the poor reaches them. India’s coalition government is spending massively on programmes to reduce poverty. This was the first time India’s major schemes had been evaluated. The World Bank says the public distribution system, which takes almost half the money, has brought limited benefits. It gives subsidised food and other goods to the poor. The report says one landmark scheme, launched more than five years ago, aims to guarantee government work for the rural unemployed. But the World Bank found that it was failing to have an impact in the poorest states because of underpayments and bad administration.”
The reference is, of course, to the projects undertaken under the NREGA (National Rural Employment Guarantee Act), a flagship project of the United Progressive Alliance government. Nor is this all, by any means. Just consider the instances of thievery and downright cheating that have recently come to light (thanks in no small measure to the vigilance of the media): the alleged stealing of money during the Commonwealth Games, the bribery involved with the allotment of the 2G spectrum, and the looting of public money from the state-owned Air India – three instances that have made right-thinking Indians hang their heads in shame, and provided derisive amusement to the rest of the world. “Emerging economic superpower, indeed” is what many around the world would be saying. “Established super-thieves who blithely rob their own country”, more like. Venality seems to be a part of our social traditions. Mir Jafar, one of the generals of Siraj-ud-Daula, Nawab of Murshidabad, was bought over by the East India Company’s Robert Clive, who realised that it was a simpler thing to do than plan a strategy to defeat the Nawab’s armies in battle. So Mir Jafar’s army held back from the Battle of Plassey and the depleted forces of the Nawab were routed by Clive’s forces and the course of India’s history changed. And this is not the only instance of such venality.
Our history is replete with them – the impregnable gates of Chittorgarh were opened from within, as were the gates of Golconda Fort. This is what we have, it seems, inherited. There was, and probably still is, a saying in Bengali among government employees: Ashi jai, mainey pai. Kaj korle upuri chai. (I get paid for coming (to the office) and going back. To work I need a bribe.) Brave efforts are being made, we are told, to bring thieves and bribe-takers to book. Dramatic arrests are made, investigations started with several television statements given by sundry police officials, and then – nothing. Years pass. Nothing happens. Arvind and Tinoo Joshi of the Madhya Pradesh cadre of the Indian Administrative Service were arrested and many statements given of the crores of rupees seized from the couple. That was last year. What happened since then? One needs to ask the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan just what he intends to do. Sit on his hands, or tell his policemen either to prosecute them or let them go. If the case is with the Central Bureau of Investigation, this is what the Prime Minister needs to do. What is stopping those in authority from acting? And what of the thousands in municipalities, municipal corporations, in the public distribution system, in the hospitals, schools and in every government office who are busy thieving? Is anyone doing anything about it? If the present laws do not permit action to be taken, can the laws not be changed swiftly and the guilty identified and punished? And, equally important, can the money stolen not be recovered, if necessary by selling whatever those found guilty have, down to their clothes and personal belongings?
How many from among the hundreds of thousands who are thieves masquerading as government or public officials have actually been tried, found guilty and punished? How many police officials have been tried, found guilty of thievery and bribe-taking and punished? Not more than one can count on the fingers of one hand. There are many in the government who are genuinely concerned about the widespread thievery and bribe-taking. They need to realise one simple thing. The answer to this is to act. Not to make brave statements of what they will do, of terrible punishments and all such rubbish, but to act. Try those arrested or identified as thieves, see that the cases against them are strongly argued, that they are found guilty, and punish them. If this becomes common practice, thievery and bribe-taking will come down. This is plain common sense. Stop talking and, in the name of all that is sacred, act. Does the Prime Minister, the leader of the Congress party, and all those responsible for the elimination of the looting of public money and assets, not realise that if they think inaction is politically clever or necessary (to keep coalition partners happy) it automatically makes them criminals, as they are then guilty of conniving with thieves and wrongdoers? And wrongdoers are not really those whose names attract media interest; the real wrongdoers are the thousands and thousands in public offices across the country. The evil lies there; that is the next Battle of Plassey, and one will watch with interest if those in power keep their armies ineffective, for whatever consideration.
- Hello? Who will bell this cat – By Ashish Khetan and Raman Kirpal (Jun 4, 2011, Tehelka)
- Corruption Must Be Fought Through A Multi Pronged Approach – Editorial (Jun 5, 2011, People’s Democracy)
- Sunspots cast a glare on the Marans – By Rohini Mohan (Jun 11, 2011, Tehelka)
- The great land grab – By Venkitesh Ramakrishnan (Jun 4, 2011, Frontline)
On May 30, as the joint drafting committee of the Lokpal Bill met for the fifth time in the conference room of the ministry of finance in North Block, trouble was already brewing. In the last four meetings, the contentious issues had been put on the backburner and the government’s representatives, led by the formidable Pranab Mukherjee, had discussed the broad principles of the proposed legislation. However, this time, within minutes, the finance minister dropped a bombshell. The prime minister, he said, would not be placed under the ambit of the proposed bill. An agitated Shanti Bhushan, the co-chairperson of the drafting panel, immediately raised a query: “Are you saying that the PM is immune to corruption?” While Bhushan did not get an answer, things went only downhill from here on. So far, the meetings had been cordial and very little of substance had been discussed except for a broad agreement on some of the less disputed aspects. On May 30, however, as the non-government members trooped into the room, they’d insisted that the key issues be discussed first. Why the government took such a sharp stand on excluding the prime minister is still not clear. It is intriguing because the draft bill prepared by the law ministry did mention that the PM would fall within the purview of the Lokpal. However, it had put in an additional safeguard that the Lokpal could only take cognisance of a complaint against the PM if it was referred to it by the Speaker of the Lok Sabha. But the government’s May 30 position that the PM be completely left out stumped many of those present there. The non-government members of the committee immediately shot across a volley of questions.
Who can investigate the PM if he is suspected of being corrupt? What if this “blanket immunity” ensures that all acts of corruption will be routed through him and will not be investigated? What if the PM kept all major portfolios with him when his immunity would provide protection to all acts of corruption in the ministries that he handles? On their part, the government’s nominees pointed out that if the PM was included in the bill, then it would completely hobble him and severely erode his authority to lead the executive. “What if there are numerous frivolous complaints against the PM sponsored by opposition parties? Would that be desirable for the smooth functioning of the government,” Union human resources development minister Kapil Sibal countered. The PM, it was also pointed out, was chosen by a democratic process that also ensured his integrity. His accountability therefore should be solely to the people or Parliament. There was more: Sibal said not only was the government keen to keep the PM out, it also wanted MPs, the judiciary, the armed forces and the Election Commission to be kept out of the bill’s purview (see following story). With temperatures rising on both sides, the non-government members of the drafting committee finally decided to end the meeting. If this was to go forward, some points would clearly have to be negotiated harder.
A day later, the government resumed its efforts to keep the PM out of the Lokpal’s ambit, but broadened its strategy. Sibal and P. Chidambaram hurriedly called a press conference to try and mitigate the PR damage. They also began a more subtle strategy to try and exploit the divisions among the civil society members on the committee. Simultaneously, a strategy was carefully worked out to highlight yoga guru Baba Ramdev’s support for the PM and judiciary’s exclusion. They also worked on a few legal luminaries to hold seminars pointing out the “lacunae” in the provisions suggested by the non-government members and use these pronouncements to erode their position. But what the government lacked then and continues to lack now are sound legal arguments to support such an immunity. Both Chidambaram and Sibal declined to be interviewed for this story. But here were some key questions that clearly warrant the PM’s inclusion in the Lokpal Bill. Can the CBI, which is directly under him, be the right agency to investigate any serious complaint? If it isn’t, then who can investigate a charge of corruption against the PM? Interestingly, the Constitution provides no blanket immunity to the PM. Wouldn’t his exclusion from such a bill create a backdoor amendment of the Constitution for all practical purposes? “Where in the world do you see such blanket immunity given to the chief executive in democracies,” asks Arvind Kejriwal, a member of the committee and a key personality in the Lokpal movement. “If US presidents have faced investigations, then what stops us from investigating the Indian PM?” Kejriwal also points out that such a “fractured mandate” to investigate corruption has never worked in any part of the world. “The government is essentially stating that it will use the CBI for low-level corruption and the PM, the Lokpal for high-level corruption minus the PM and the CVC for all else. This is the most absurd situation we can imagine.” Former chief justice of the Delhi High Court, A.P. Shah, also feels that the PM must come under the purview of the Lokpal, with adequate safeguards.
“It is strange,” he says, “that while the government’s draft covered the PM, he is now sought to be excluded. Some ministries come directly under the PM. Others, because of national security, are sought to be kept out. The real danger lies in his seeking to avoid inquiry by the Lokpal because of the control he wields.” But Shah believes “the power to sanction investigations against the PM should be given to the Lokpal by the President (who is the head of the government). After the investigations, and on the basis of evidence collected, the Lokpal’s report should be placed before Parliament”. Shah’s position is well appreciated by Nikhil Dey, a member of the National Campaign for the People’s Right to Information and a champion of grassroots activism. But while the NCPRI has generally stated it wants the PM under Lokpal, Nikhil nuances his personal position, saying he does not want a PM hobbled by frivolous allegations. “I think this needs some amount of thought before we come to a conclusion. If a PM is directly in charge of a ministry, then he must be accountable to the Lokpal. At the same time, he can’t be subjected to an inquiry just because as chief executive he has the vicarious responsibility of the whole cabinet. I certainly don’t want a lame-duck PM but I don’t want a completely unaccountable PM either.” However, there are others like former chief justice of India J.S. Verma and senior government officials in the PMO who feel that the prime minister must be kept out. Lawyer Prashant Bhushan is deeply disturbed by the attempts to shield the PM from the Lokpal net. He believes the greater the responsibility, the greater the accountability. “The PM is responsible for all security issues,” he says. “What happens if a corrupt PM is made to govern such a security set-up?” Wryly, he points to the danger posed by a corrupt or devious man with a finger on the nuclear button!
In 1998, when the Central Vigilance Commission was given statutory status by the A.B. Vajpayee-led NDA government, it too had envisaged bringing the PM under the Lokpal’s scrutiny. While the present leader of the opposition in the Lok Sabha and BJP leader Sushma Swaraj pointed this out on social networking website Twitter a few days ago, her party colleague Arun Jaitley was more measured in his argument on the issue. “Look, Parliament is supreme. Usually civil society feeds Parliament on policy issues. Here this logic has been turned on its head and we are being asked for our opinions to feed civil society.” Jaitley’s parliamentary colleague and senior CPI(M) leader Sitaram Yechury believes that “the institution of Lokpal should be established covering the prime minister and the PMO”. Meanwhile, the non-government members of the committee have held extensive public consultations. But the government nominees have neither proposed nor carried out any such exercise. So far, they have been guarded in their public announcements and opaque on the deliberations on the Lokpal Bill. Whether the new legislation will strengthen democracy or weaken it is too early to say. There is one school of thought that feels it may create an all-powerful monster which will have sweeping powers over the judiciary, the investigating agencies and the executive in violation of “the separation of powers” principle enshrined in the Constitution. On the brighter side, though, it could also turn out to be a major step forward in the fight against corruption.
- ‘Keeping the PM out of Lokpal purview is absurd’ – Prashant Bhushan with Kunal Majumder (Jun 11, 2011, Tehelka)
- Weighing The Scales – By Anuradha Raman (Jun 13, 2011, Outlook)
- For drafting an ideal Lokpal Bill – By Arun Kumar (May 31, 2011, The Hindu)
Thankfully, the Bill was finally handed over to NAC’s committee to undo the misplaced and misconceived Patil’s “The Communal Violence (Prevention, Control and Rehabilitation of Victims) Bill, 2005.” NAC has put life to the formerly dead and deadly Bill. The Committee undertook this task and did a complete 3600redrafting, to the extent that it proposed changes from its name to the objective, creating new offences, framework of relief and rehabilitation and so on so forth. The Bill indeed needs to be supported with full vigor. The Bill has introduced new crimes such as Sexual Offence, Hate Propaganda, Organized Targeted Violence, Financial/Material Aid of Commission of Offence, Torture, Dereliction of Duties, Breach of Command Responsibility, Offences by Other Superiors for Breach of Command Responsibility and Preparation for Committing Offence under Act. Till date these offences and concepts are alien to Indian Penology. For me, mere conceiving a law like the Prevention of Communal and Targeted Violence (Access to Justice and Reparations) Bill, 2011 is a courageous stand in itself and a determinant of the strength and fate of India Secularism. At least it is and will be a historic event considered as a gesture of intent to revive of faith of religious minorities of India in the Constitution as well as in the institution of law and justice.
Quite interesting to mention here that while going through the provisions of Bill, you will find a sense that Gujarat Genocide 2002 is everywhere in both the back drop and forestage. You will also sense that this Bill tries to find answers and give answers to the problems Indian legal system as a whole was forced to face after 2002 genocide and is facing today as well. I strongly feel that it has a reflection of civil society’s post 2002 genocide consciousness. Jurisprudentially speaking, this Bill has introduced a whole lot of new dimensions including the legal taxonomy and concepts such as reparation, internal displacement and command head responsibility, victim/witness protection, Human Rights Defender etc. Apart from all the major achievements of this Bill, it has some deficiencies in terms of vagueness of use of expressions; especially the definition of ‘Communal and targeted violence’ includes the act which ‘destroys the secular fabric of the nation’. What constitutes destruction of secular fabric of the nation is very subjective and vague. One must not forget that none of the FIRs registered in Gujarat carried any offense against religion. And it was only because the task was with the police which were already colored with permanent saffron dye of one shade. Such vague terms leaves immense room for construction to the police/executive/law enforcing agencies. S. 3(f) of the Bill defines ‘Hostile Environment against a Group’ covering boycott, excommunication, deprivation of fundamental rights, deprivation of education, health services, transportation; forced displacement etc. In another words it covers untouchable practices against SC/ST/Minorities. But on other hand, there is no crime heads have been created to deter such practices. Therefore, it is pertinent to append new offences falling under following heads: (1) Forced Displacement; (2) Social and Economic Boycott; and (3) Illegal Dispossession, Transfer, Possession or Disposal of Immovable Property. Also, it doesn’t prescribe any enhanced punishment on subsequent commission. The provision enabling enhanced punishment on subsequent conviction should also be added.
So far as right of victim and witnesses are concerned following new rights related to TA/DA, Maintenance allowance etc. during investigation and trial of offences under this Act should be a responsibility of the state government. Noteworthy, this law puts extraordinary importance and reliance on the National and State Authorities for preservation of secular fabric of the nation and the protection of victims of communal and targeted violence as well. It is supposed to perform the role of change agent. Except on few places where the Bill has missed some important functions, in particular following new functions should also be added: (1) to file complaint on behalf of the victim in appropriate forum and (2) to supervise and monitor State Authorities. Further, to ensure transparency in the functioning of the Authorities the reports, recommendations, orders, notifications etc. should be deemed a public document and the authority should ensure their periodic, timely and proactive publication on its official website and should be covered under the proactive disclosure under RTI Act, except where disclosure is expressly prohibited under this law such as name, address and other details of the complainant/victims i.e. confidentiality should not suffer. At the risk of seeming ridiculous and ultra-optimistic, I believe that it could have also been used as an opportunity to test the concept of peace and reconciliation i.e. as an opening to a departure from the traditional approach of crime and punishment/vengeance and retribution.
Even after 2002 riots, distinct though feeble voice was raised to attempt reconciliation between Dalit/tribal/Muslims assuming that the dominant forces often instrumentalize the poorer/deprived section of one community against other, which to a large extent had apparently happened in this case. It had raised a question that how to make peace and reconciliation a means to peace and justice? Or rather is it really possible in a situation where eternal and utmost lack of acknowledgement of pain and grief topped and spiced up with the systemic and institutional denial of the injustice done to the victims of communal carnage/s? Admittedly, these are few questions within the larger question of peace and reconciliation. One can’t blame NAC/ Government/etc. for not incorporating it within this law as an alternative to the traditional institution of justice delivery. One is fully aware that it requires a different legal and democratic climate/atmosphere to enable/facilitate and even aspire for peace and reconciliation. Unfortunately, at this juncture, we as a society and democracy had moved rampantly to an era of confusion and disruption, where mere visualizing peace and reconciliation is a hazy dream, making it the difficult most tasks. The systematic damage has already been done actively by the communal forces and passively by the moderates, to different organs of democratic governance set up i.e. communalization of politics, police, judiciary, lawyers and bureaucracy. And to undo this means a lot. Metaphorically, it means calling kettle and pot both black.
Though I also believe that it is still possible well within the present law as it also intents and attempts to create a situation conducive to communal amity and favorable to secular traditions and practices. By this I mean that institutional review; reform and restructuring is one of the major areas of work in order to meet the end of this law.Importantly, an additional function should be added to the functions of both National and State Authorities with regard to declaration for the constitution of peace and reconciliation commission/s with the sanction/approval of the Chief Justice of India or High Court respectively. Procedure for that should also be laid down and appended as a schedule to the Bill as standard operation guide. Public Officers and Immunity- the Bill intents to punish offence of ‘Torture’ (S. 12 proviso) but at the same time provide protection/defense to public officers in circumstances where such torturous act is done in accordance of law. This defense of ‘acts done in accordance of law’ also means acts done in ‘good faith’ (S 52, IPC) by public officers and will also cover public servants acting under mistake of fact or under belief of being bound by law. For this purpose any action can be termed as action taken in good faith or under a mistake of fact or belief of being bound by law, especially where violence is done on the behest and under the direct or indirect protection of the government. This provision has adopted a conventional legal situation where highest degree of carelessness, negligence, misconduct needs to be proved for the prosecution of a public officer. Although in such a situation, a general burden of proving good faith is on the public officer under the Indian Evidence Act, but better if it is made a part of the present legislation i.e. a new provision relating the burden of proof of ‘conduct in accordance with law; good faith; mistake of fact and believe to be bound by law’ on the public servant claiming protection of such defenses. …
- The clause of worry – By Vikas Pathak (Jun 2, 2011, Hindustan Times)
- Violence Inflicted on Muslims: Direct, Cultural and Structural – By Taha Abdul Rauf (Jun 4, 2011, Economic & Political Weekly)
- Indian Muslims: A Tale of Wows and Woes – By Shahidur Rashid Talukdar (Jun 5, 2011, Twocircles.net)
- Low Political Representation of Indian Muslims And The Way Out – By Shahidur Rashid Talukdar (May 21, 2011, Countercurrents)
With the development of different norms of peace and justice all over there are many a global organizations and organizations set up by some countries, which monitor the state of delivery of justice to its citizens. India has been in the focus of many such organizations, not for very good reasons. The issues being observed regarding India are peace and religious freedom. In both these aspects the records of India are not very flattering for the country. India’s rank currently stands at 135 out of 153 nations (2011) assessed on this scale called Global Peace This global Peace Index ranks the countries according to how peaceful they are. India currently falls amongst the 20 least peaceful nations. Similarly for the third successive year US Watch dog on religious freedom (USCIRF) has underlined the need to pursue investigation against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi for his role in Gujarat 2002 carnage, and has put India on the Watch List. This body also points out that another reason, apart from lack of action against Modi, for putting India on the watch list is that the justice for the communal violence victims continues to be slow and ineffective.
Both these observations put together highlight the rise of divisive sectarian politics, after the demolition of Babri Mosque in particular. The present state of affairs is also due to nature of response of state and the political leadership to the phenomenon of religious violence and the process taking place in the aftermath of the well orchestrated violence. The process of violence is generally initiated on the pretext of some event. Already in the society the ‘Social Common Sense’ has been manufactured. Due to this social common sense large sections of society look at religious minorities as a threat to the majority religion. This social common sense has been manufactured over a period of time through the work of communal organizations, (Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and RSS Combine) later intensified by the education and section of media. This ‘Hate Other’ propaganda creates the ground on which ethno-preuners (political leaders using religious divides to come to power) take up their initiative to get the violence initiated against minorities. In the last decade the massive violence against Muslims in Gujarat and the one against Christians in Orissa have been particularly disturbing.
This violence in turn displaces the sections of minority community from their houses-localities, forcing them to stay in refugee camps in wretched conditions. The apathy of state and political leadership deliberately creates a situation where the displaced persons-families are denied proper rehabilitation and justice. This not only polarizes the communities on religious lines but goes on to ghettoize the minorities in particular. The process of social exclusion of minorities is going on at very rapid pace. This leads us to question of assessing the changing nature of Indian state and polity. Are we able to nurture and promote the values of equality enshrined in our Constitution or we are going downhill towards a Hindu majoritarian state? Though the major ruling party will swear by secularism on paper, when it comes to halt communalism in its tracks it shows no will power to protect the secular fabric of our heritage from freedom movement. The other major electoral party, BJP, is part of the Combine which does want to convert India in to a Hindu nation, is aiming at Hindu majoritarian state. So when in power indifferent states BJP does push its agenda of Hindu nation, while its affiliates, progeny of RSS, Vishwa Hindu parishad, Vanvasi Kalyan Ashram and Bajrang Dal etc go on intensifying the hatred against minorities and creating a situation where minorities can not live a life of dignity and equal rights.
In this scenario the question of justice in Gujarat, Kandhamal and role of people like Narendra Modi become more frightening. Surprisingly things have come to such a sorry pass where the guilty of violence are moving with their bloated chests and the human rights activists are being hounded on purpose. As an example of this the case of Teesta Setalvad is a major example, as to how the Gujarat State under Modi is trying to target her through different legal means. It is time to introspect as to where our democracy is going. The deeper infiltration of divisive political ideology and its impact on the nature of our polity needs to be negated to ensure that the deviation from the values of our political pluralism and the right of minorities to live with dignity and justice, like every other citizen, is restored. The state of health of a democracy is reflected by the equity and security of minorities. The rot seems to be all around in different aspects of life; still the state of affairs is not same all over the country. There are states where this process of sectarianism is partial while in states like Gujarat, post carnage 2002 the minorities, barring a small section, has been pushed away to live in ghettoes, the live the life of second class citizen. In other states this process prevails in different degrees.
The politics resulting form the aftermath of violence is supplemented by the lack of will of the state to ensure the proper implementation of recommendations of the committees like Sachar Committee and Rangnath Mishra committee. The grass root level life of the minorities has been allowed to rot. The affirmative action has been projected as ‘Minority appeasement’ by the intense propaganda which the communal forces are unleashed relentlessly. It is time that all the social movements, the dedicated political leadership and section of state have to wake up from their slumber and try to do the course correction related to the basic aspects of the nature of democratic ethos. Can we let our democracy slip in to a sort of ‘Majoritarian Democracy’ where section of people of only one religion enjoy part of the equality, while the rights of minorities are trampled recklessly? It is overdue that those committed to the goal of India as Plural-Democratic India shed their complacency and come forward to bring in the substantive equality for all, irrespective of their religion.
- A major grouse with minority institutions – By Valson Thampu (Jun 2, 2011, Indian Express)
While Karnataka Governor H.R. Bhardwaj can probably be excused for thinking that someone ‘up there’ likes Chief Minister B.S. Yeddyurappa, who seems to claw his way out of the deepest of political black holes, what he cannot be forgiven for are his unabashedly partisan motives and often fatuous moves aimed at ejecting, by means more foul than fair, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) first ever government in the South. Over the past two years, Bhardwaj’s attempts, many of which have resembled Don Quixote tilting at windmills, have not only allowed Yeddyurappa to garner sympathy and strength but, worse, paralysed for days on end the State’s administration and helped put on the back burner remedial action on the real issues clogging Karnataka’s progress as a front-line State (its economy is projected to grow at over 8 per cent in 2010-11). Among the issues are rampant corruption, patchy governance, continuing illegal mining, nepotism, scandals which have seen four Ministers make unceremonious exits, and discrimination against and oppression of minorities. The beleaguered Yeddyurappa has seen more downs than ups in his three years as Chief Minister, with most of the threats initiated, curiously, by his own partymen. The just-concluded political ‘tamasha’ was no different. Yeddyurappa was shaken by a letter from Governor Bhardwaj to the Centre on May 15 recommending the proclamation of President’s Rule in the State under Article 356 (1) of the Constitution. On the night of May 22 the Chief Minister got yet another reprieve when the Cabinet Committee on Political Affairs rejected the Governor’s recommendations. But the Centre’s week-long delay in making its intentions clear, and the statements and counterstatements in the interim, once again highlighted what these frequent spats between the Yeddyurappa government and the Governor have come to signify – a political logjam and a halt to governance, something Karnataka Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj Jagdish Shettar squarely blamed Bhardwaj for. He said: “The mala fide, politically motivated and unconstitutional moves of the Governor have resulted in political impasse and uncertainty in the State, causing me and many of my ministerial colleagues to indefinitely postpone or worse cancel our scheduled district review meetings, visits to constituencies, taluk panchayats, etc. What has the Governor achieved except harming the interests of the State? Bhardwaj should be recalled immediately by the Centre.” But such a move is unlikely for now.
This is the second time in seven months that Bhardwaj’s recommendation for President’s Rule has hit a wall at the Centre. Union Home Minister P. Chidambaram explained that the Governor’s report made no case for President’s Rule. However, both the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government and the Congress have defended stoutly the Governor’s actions and ruled out his recall. According to ballpark estimates, the Yeddyurappa government, which prides itself on attracting investment to the tune of Rs.4.73 lakh crore during the Global Investors Meet in June 2010, has lost around 15 months of its three years in power firefighting on dissidence (initially by the Reddy brothers of Bellary and then by others), unprecedented floods in the northern parts of the State, byelections to the State Assembly, elections to the Lok Sabha and local bodies, scandals including charges of corruption and nepotism against the Chief Minister, and the Governor’s nod to prosecute him. A number of key infrastructure projects, including in areas such as irrigation and surface transport, await Cabinet clearance. ‘Financially manufactured’ allegiances (through Operation Lotus) and majorities, though deemed necessary, have also taken up the government’s time. Operation Lotus was a well-conceived, though mischievous, plan to woo legislators from other parties in order to give the BJP a clear majority in the 224-member Assembly, it having won 110 seats (simple majority: 113 seats) in the May 2008 election. It dented the strengths of both the Congress and the Janata Dal (Secular). Both parties saw a number of their legislators resigning their seats and winning on the BJP ticket in the ensuing byelection. The BJP has won 16 of the 17 byelections that have been held during the tenure of the present Assembly.
Bhardwaj’s letter of May 15 came a day after he met Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other Congress leaders in New Delhi and two days after the Supreme Court set aside Assembly Speaker K.G. Bopaiah’s order of October 11, 2010, disqualifying 11 BJP and five independent members supporting the Yeddyurappa government. Though the Speaker’s orders had been upheld by the Karnataka High Court, a two-judge Bench of the Supreme Court overturned it, upholding the appeals filed by Balchandra L. Jarkiholi and 10 others. The judges said it appeared that Speaker Bopaiah’s disqualification ruling, given on an application by Yeddyurappa, was a “drastic” and “partisan step”, taken in “hot haste” and “great hurry”. On October 9, in their reply to the Speaker’s show cause notice, the 11 BJP rebels and five independent legislators had re-emphasised their position that they not only continued to be BJP members/support the BJP, but would also support any government formed by the party headed by any leader other than Yeddyurappa. The Supreme Court judges added that merely expressing a lack of confidence in Yeddyurappa did not empower the Speaker to take action against them. The Bench said in its May 13 judgment: “Extraneous considerations are writ large on the face of the order of the Speaker and the same has to be set aside. The Speaker, in our view, proceeded in the matter as if he was required to meet the deadline set by the Governor [for Yeddyurappa to take a trust vote], irrespective of whether, in the process, he was ignoring the constitutional norms set out in the Tenth Schedule and the Disqualification Rules, 1986, and in contravention of the basic principles that go hand in hand with the concept of a fair hearing.”
The judgment added that there was no compulsion on the Speaker to decide the disqualification application filed by Yeddyurappa in such a great hurry within the time specified by the Governor to conduct a vote of confidence. It said: “It would appear that such a course of action was adopted by the Speaker since the vote of confidence was slated for before October 12, 2010. The element of hot haste is also evident in the action of the Speaker. The procedure adopted by the Speaker seems to indicate that he was trying to meet the time schedule set by the Governor for the trial of strength and to ensure that the appellants and other independent MLAs stood disqualified prior to the date on which the floor test was to be held.” In a further indictment of the Speaker’s action, the court said: “The vote of confidence took place on October 11, in which the disqualified members could not participate and, in their absence Mr Yeddyurappa was able to prove his majority in the House. Unless it was to ensure that the trust vote did not go against the Chief Minister, there was no conceivable reason for the Speaker to have taken up the disqualification application in such a great hurry.” The Supreme Court judgment was all that Bhardwaj needed. Acting swiftly after parleys in New Delhi, he wrote to the Centre seeking the promulgation of President’s Rule. His argument was that the Supreme Court judgment amply showed that Yeddyurappa had won the vote of confidence unconstitutionally and hence had no right to continue. According to the Governor, after the MLAs who were supporting Yeddyurappa had submitted letters to him withdrawing their support, he had advised the Chief Minister to prove his majority. But the Speaker, in collusion with the Chief Minister, had distorted the character and composition of the Assembly for extraneous reasons by disqualifying 16 members just hours before the crucial floor test.
The Governor’s thinking, constitutional experts felt, was flawed since neither the Supreme Court nor the MLAs themselves had gone into the question of which way the legislators would have voted (the party had issued a whip) in the confidence vote that Yeddyurappa won. The Governor’s recommendation also did not factor in the reality of 10 of the 11 BJP legislators deciding to rejoin Yeddyurappa. Less than 48 hours after the Supreme Court had struck down their disqualification, they were standing at the Karnataka Raj Bhavan, waiting to hand over to the Governor letters of support to the Yeddyurappa government. They were back in the BJP fold, having struck “win-win deals” with the party, which promised some of them ministerial berths and others posts as heads of statutory bodies. But Bhardwaj refused to meet them (citing that it was a Sunday) and instead dashed of his missive to the Centre. Buoyed by the return of the 10 legislators, Yeddyurappa was also keen on a confidence vote on the floor of the House. The Yeddyurappa Cabinet called on the Governor to convene a session of the legislature from May 16. But the Governor refused. An angry BJP dubbed Bhardwaj an agent of the Congress who wanted to rule the State through the backdoor. On May 17, a worried BJP paraded 114 (some were absent with prior permission) of their MLAs before President Pratibha Patil at Rashtrapati Bhavan. Leading the troupe were BJP president Nitin Gadkari and senior leaders Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, with MPs and MLCs in tow. They called for the “immediate recall” of Bhardwaj, who they claimed was functioning against the spirit of the Constitution. They added that the “dignity and prestige of the office of Governor in Karnataka had suffered a great deal” because of him. Besieging the President not to take any action on the recommendation of the Governor, Gadkari and other leaders claimed that the BJP government had the support of 122 MLAs, including Yeddyurappa and the Speaker. …
- No hot meals, only the cold shoulder – By Imran Khan (Jun 11, 2011, Tehelka)
- President’s Rule: Limits & checks – By A.G. Noorani (Jun 4, 2011, Frontline)