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A wasted week in Parliament: Dock MPs's D. A. for no work

Monday, March 12, 2018
By Virendra Kapoor

Debate on PNB-Nirav Modi scam to de-fang the Opposition

Another week in Parliament washed out. No one should be surprised. Debate and discussion has yielded to a wasteful lung-power. Wonder if the nightly television channels which run those effete `tu-tu-mein-mein’ sessions between self-important political gladiators without one of them having anything new or original to offer are aping our honourable MPs or is it the other way round? At least in the case of the TV channels, the tax-payers do not have to pick up the tab. But the hefty bill for the routine  disruptions and adjournments of Parliament is paid by us taxpayers. Whatever happened to the proposal to dock the salary and daily allowances of the members every time they force the closure of the House on the flimsiest of excuses!

In any case, the logjam in Parliament this past week over the Nirav Modi scam was pointless. What is it that the Congress Party wants to establish? Does it have an iota of proof that the high-profile jeweler scammed the Punjab National Bank in collusion with someone in the ruling party? Can it even remotely establish that phone calls were made from the people in power – as was the routine in the UPA decade, and earlier in the Indira Gandhi years?

So, its insistence on debating Nirav Modi and Mehul Choksi is bound to end in a whimper. As for the charge that the two fled after helping themselves to tens of thousands of bank funds, a wee-bit of commonsense would reveal that impounding passports without anyone being legally charged and declared a crime suspect attracts a big judicial rap. Why, Rahul Gandhi is on bail in a Rs.2,000-crore National Herald fraud case, isn’t he? Should he decide one moment to up and vamoose from these shores, how can anyone hold the Modi Government guilty for allowing him to flee the country.

If, earlier, Vijaya Mallaya and Lalit Modi ran away it was simply because no government can get into the minds of the potential absconders. Vitally,  the courts would not agree to curb  their fundamental freedoms on a mere suspicion that they are likely to leave the country. Remember the courts refused the CBI plea to impound Karti Chidambaram’s passport despite there being a strong case of criminal conspiracy and money-laundering against him and despite the fear that on his foreign visits he was engaged in tempering with crucial  evidence.

Indeed, it is surprising that the ruling party has not disarmed the raucous Opposition crowd by listing an early debate on Nirva Modi, here and now. For, aside from inane abuse and unsubstantiated charges, the Opposition has nothing to link the Modi-Choksi crooked duo to anyone in the Government. As for the PM addressing Choksi `Mehul Bhai’ at a public conference, well those who have supped with Laloo Yadav for decades despite his having been a fodder scam accused, and who is now cooling his heels in jail, are not tainted by association, are they?. In the case of Choksi, the PM was being merely polite, greeting a fellow-Gujarati in the customary Gujarati fashion.       

Besides, if the Congress’s paper tiger, Rahul Gandhi, does have any evidence linking the Modi Government to the PNB scam,  he should use the 24x7 window of news television, always available to him, to lay it before the nation. What is keeping him from exposing the Government? The truth is that there is nothing substantial to establish that the PNB-Nirav Modi scam was the handiwork of the Government. It wasn’t. It was a systemic bank failure. Given the way they nominated top bosses  in various public sector banks  through `chamchagiri’ and `haftagiri’ all through the Congress years, a personal assistant to the Finance Minister or an aide to the PM was able to dictate the release of tens of crores of rupees to whoever was ready to service the needs of his bosses. And that scam was run for long by  Rahul’s party  -- hollowing out the treasuries of most public sector banks.

Why should judges put up with rude and bullying  lawyers?       
It saddens one how senior counsel in the Supreme Court  openly impute motives to the judges. Neither concerns for institutional dignity and decorum nor for their own lack of court etiquette  and good manners seem to deter them from suggesting that Their Lordships are biased. This is the result of a systematic pelting of the judiciary both from within and without. The four senior judges who recently held a press conference to vent their personal spleen against the Chief Justice of India did neither themselves nor the higher judiciary any favour. They only ended up bringing down the judiciary in the public mind a few notches down. Unfortunately, sections of the media gloated about the `judicial coup’ due to their obsession with  Narendra Modi.   

But the clear upshot of that impulsive and unwise act, motivated, no doubt, by the unrequited ambition of the senior-most of the quartet, is that senior lawyers who should know better think nothing of attacking the dignity and impartiality of the judges in open court. And they have got so emboldened due to the internal dissensions within the judiciary that they directly accuse the judges of extraneous motives.

As a test case, scan through the reported proceedings of the two controversial cases in newspapers last Friday. After reading through various newspaper accounts, in the Judge Loya case and in the Karti Chidambaram case, it seems that the bounds of decency and institutional norms, which hitherto bound the lawyers, have all but broken down. Otherwise, there is no way it can be justified that the counsel in the first would  complain of partiality, accusing the court of asking all the tough questions to him and not to the other side. The implication was clear. This particular counsel has hit headlines not  for the points of law unveiled by him to press his case but  for his rude and clumsy outbursts against the judges. And the surprise is seems to be  getting away.

In the Karti case too, the suggestion of the counsel that the court was virtually being dictated to by the government lawyer was downright offensive. Such language would be  unworthy of any experienced senior counsel.  Can you imagine the two counsels getting away with such errant conduct, say, in a higher court in the UK or in the USA?  If you think that lawyers often treat the judges the way Opposition  treats the Lok Sabha Speaker, you wouldn’t be wrong. But, then, you don’t expect much from the politicians, do you?

The judiciary was supposed to be above the fray, but increasingly the resort to judiciary to settle political scores has dragged the entire institution into the vortex of controversy. Unfortunately, barring an exception or two, even the quality and character of judges has suffered a palpable decline. Though one is certain there may be others as well, but presently  I can  think of no more worthy judges than R. F. Nariman and D Y Chandrachud, the former a truly refined mind with vast scholarship, to sit on the Supreme Court. It  was Chandrachud who ticked off the fulminating counsel, suggesting bias by the bench. The rap was well-deserved. You cannot make up for a complete lack of evidence  with an overdose of bombast and vituperation.

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