Tuesday, December 06, 2022

None more Equal than Others

By EMN Updated: May 11, 2014 11:59 pm

B.G. Verghese

[dropcap]O[/dropcap]ne much needed reform vouchsafed by judicial decree in the dying days of UPA-II is the striking down by a full bench of the Supreme Court last week of the so-called single directive that has over the years become a brazen device to shield corrupt senior bureaucrats of the rank of joint secretary and above from facing and clearing their names of corruption charges.
Section 6A was added to the Delhi Special Police Establishment Act by the NDA in 2003 mandating sanction from superior authority for the investigation by the CBI of corruption charges against senior officials. This was done after the Supreme Court had in 1997 quashed the Government’s so called single directive to the CBI consolidating various earlier directions regarding the handling of corruption cases. The reason for stubbornly insisting on this protective shield was the need to protect senior functionaries from frivolous complaints.The short answer to that is and was always that mala fide and vindictive complaints against honest officials should be met with swift and exemplary punishment as a deterrent against harassment and blackmail. The tragedy is that the guilty are lightly and very tardily punished if at all. This has bred immunity and impunity across the board. The Court rightly opined that all officials must be treated equally for the same offence and not differentially in accordance with their status. Status in public life is akin to the caste system – wholly iniquitous and a perversion of human rights and justice.
A recent report about Dr Manmohan Singh properly decidingto vacate the Prime Minister’s residence before May 16, when the election results come in, carried the further detail that some two dozen powerful figures – ex-ministers, MPs and others – were hanging on to their official residences months and years after their retirement from office despite repeated requests and reminders. The remedy would be to give them a weeks’ notice to vacate and settle all dues and penalties or be evicted on the eighth day. Their goods and chattels should then be liable to be summarily thrown on the street and auctioned against costs. Any interference should be met with arrest and a hefty fine or imprisonment in lieu thereof. Draconian, yes.Undemocratic, no. Do this just once or twice and it will put the fear of God into others and we will be rid of the problem.
How long do we tolerate every kind of nonsense in the name of our modern wealth/rank caste system. This evil is all pervasive. Dealing with drunken or rash driving entailing loss of innocent lives or rape, bail or whatever is all too often dealt with on the basis of the new caste system. A very recent instance is NarendraModi’s offence in not declaring his spouse or her assets and income, if any, in his election nomination paper as required. The fact is that he had scrupulously “hidden” away his wife and cooked his nomination papers over three previous elections and had to be brought to order by the Supreme Court. Extenuating remarks by senior BJP spokespersons that his was a “child marriage” (at 17plus years) and a “child marriage” is not a marriage is just such profound nonsense as to have aroused what can only be termed the idiot media to a frenzy of non-debate that has rendered much of the current election coverage a second grade tamasha.
The media’s role in the current election, barring honourable exceptions, has been dubious. Take Priyanka Gandhi’s riposte to Modi that he was indulging in neechrajnitior low politics. The media gleefully amplified a hundred-fold Modi’s totally irrelevant and motivated “translation” of this into suggesting that Priyanka had ridiculed his low castefrom her upper caste and “foreign” perch. Why did the media have to give this utterly bogus and divisive twist to the debate and spend three days in debating a total non-issue in which high and mighty commentators on the evening TV circus pompously joined with much superior wisdom. And now the silly and irrelevant debate about Modi’s caste and how and why and by whom it was changed and ratified!
The poll campaign got dirtier and less restrained as it progressed to a close. There was a final confrontation between Modi and the Central Election Commission over his being barred from a fifth rally he had sought in Varanasi on May 9. An Election Commissioner has admitted that the Returning Officer, Varanasi, could have acted with greater despatch and the Commission has sent a senior official from Tamil Nadu to watch over the Varanasi poll on May 12. Modi used avoidably churlish language against the CEC that combined protest and threat of defiance. He questioned the integrity of the CEC which has done an outstanding job against provocations by all parties including, not least, the BJP.
Meanwhile, in J&K, the separatists and jihadis have launched a war against the polls that they so fear. Their concept of “self-determination” is dictated choice by coercion of the gun, Taliban style. They terrified and murdered voters in Sopore, where few voted, but were isolated in Kupwara and Handwara where the electorate turned out in large numbers. A day or two later, those who voted were waylaid and thrashed for their defiance. The Parivar, back to its Hindutva agenda, has not helped matters by talking of reviewing Article 370 which operationalizes a constitutional mechanism open to all princely states in 1947.
The open and persistent RSS coaching and monitoring of the BJP’s election campaign and its prospective role in governance, as widely assumed, is also far from reassuring. Having criticised and scorned the UPA for long about back seat driving and remote control, the BJP is going down precisely that same road. The RSS, a so-called “cultural body” that has foresworn political engagement is now unabashedly fathering and steering a political agenda, with Modi and Rajnath Singh kow-towing before Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief, and his lieutenants. What does this portend? Whose mandate doBhagwat, Togadia and the like represent?
Finally, the Centre has decided to put a proposed Modi “snoopgate” inquiry on hold and leave it to the next government to go ahead or drop the matter. The Court has also so ordained. This is a mistaken view as justice should not await elections and their outcomes. It also sends out the wrong message that due process can be moderated by incumbent governments.

By EMN Updated: May 11, 2014 11:59:13 pm