Our institutions it is sad to note may really not be as strong or foolproof as we would like to believe. The reputation of the Executive as a whole has been in tatters for as long as we care to remember; our legislature – call it parliament, if you will – has converted itself into a blurred vision, unresponsive to all attempts to restore it to good health.
Cheer leaders and ji hazooris have taken over the chambers where once resonated the voices of reason and good governance, the voices like those of Nehru, Patel, H V Kamath, Rafi Ahmed, Nath Pai, Madhu Limaye.
Unheard of precedents are being set by all the institutions as if responding to some mysterious conductor out to sound the last post of the Indian polity. The judiciary with due apologies to the learned judges has become less inspiring than it may once have been.
And no one in particular is interested in pulling up the reins. The Election Commission which had survived the many threats to its independence is slipping downhill.
The Commission choosing to give the Nelson’s eye to some gross violations of the prevailing law or healthy precedent by appearing to be hell-bent on kowtowing with the powers that be.
The newly constituted Lokpal or Chief Vigilance Commissioner finding himself and his entire crew accommodation in a five star hotel. Taking the cake and with some robust ale too, The Lok Pal is said to supervise the conduct of bureaucratic India, setting a new moral tone for their functioning.
And lo and behold, the Chief Justice of India is made to cut an uneasy figure as a woman employee , formerly working for him, alleges that she wasn’t quite up to the advances made towards her by the judge.
It is just an allegation and for all one cares a frivolous and inspired one but just imagine the stink that is created. Yes, even by an irresponsible defamatory allegation. CJ Gogoi is a man of great integrity and a tremendous reputation as a judge, just the kind of person you like to see occupying a position of grave responsibility.
Yes, in countries like the US the apex court judges are usually political appointees but the kind of grilling a judge must undergo, prior to his or her nomination being accepted, in the Senate Committees hearings on his or her appointment.
Instances are not unknown when one or two judges named by the President have not passed the test at the Senate hearings and had therefore return to their previous assignment, whatever. Even the man only recently appointed by Donald Trump had to go through many hiccups including facing accusations of the “me too” type.
And fully televised are these sittings of the Senate Committee. Chief Justice Gogoi may have lost no time in bringing the allegation against him into the public domain but the problem is that such taints, however ridiculous, do not easily wash away.
Gogoi is an honorable man but do consider the grimness of the times we are living in, wherein anyone seems to be free to hurl an accusation in the direction of a person who is expected to be the repository of all that’s good, just and fair.
Of our politicians the less said the better. They have been on a rampage for years and never as fiercely as during the last three or four years – from Modiji, down to Amit Shahji and Rahulji and our own Didiji from West Bengal.
I am sure by the time this little voice gets aired within my little domain, the Chief Justice would have come out well from his self-imposed ordeal, the CEC would be rubbing his hands in glee and having his travel plans updated.
I am not trying to be funny or striving for effect. I am only going by how we ordinary humans react to situations, even the most awkward of these, if you will..And Rajnath Singh, our Home Minister, must be among the finest of the persons to have adorned the North Block Headquarters of the Home Ministry.
I marvel at the man’s derring do, his never say die approach to issues like, say, even Kashmir, where, he would want me to believe peace reigns supreme; he would want me to believe the State is passing through one of the most peaceful periods thanks to the direct responsibility assumed by New Delhi for administering State through its handpicked Governor.
The tourists, other than Amarnath Yatris, one is expected to believe, will be packing up the place. So all’s well as Rajnathji keeps tom-toming his set piece – Kashmir is at peace with itself.
Never mind the road blockades, power shutdown and what have you! The Home Minister was so impressed with his government’s performance that he couldn’t help complimenting himself or his Prime Minister for having wrought the miracle of Balakot or gotten the better of the skirmishing along LOC, putting into shade the liberation of Bangladesh by Mukti Bahini and the Indian Army.
As if the Bangladesh war was a joke, one that saw Pakistan divided, 90,000 Pakistani soldiers taken as prisoners of war, not to mention FM Maneckshaw and the Commander of the war against Pakistan in the former East Pakistan Lt Gen Jagjit Singh, who signed the surrender deed with Gen Niazi of Pakistan.
That was really the kind of war Pakistan should never have got involved in but for the obduracy of the military dictator in Islamabad and the roaring ambitions of Zulfiqar Bhutto. Mujibur Rahman had won the Pakistan elections just preceding the conflict but Bhutto and the General wouldn’t let Sheikh Mujib be the Prime Minister. Back to my theme.
The apex court in a landmark judgment not so long ago described certain institutions in the country as the integrity institutions. Most important of these was the Election Commission wherein lies its exceptional importance, followed by the Judiciary and other institutions drawing inspiration from the Constitution.
Among these Chief Vigilance Commissioner, the CEC, the CAG, Chief Information Commissioner. The CEC is connected with our democratic well-being. Sadly its position now stands a bit diminished. Indeed the CVC, CAG, CIO too join the CEC in that they have all declined.
The Election Commission had evolved the model code of conduct in consultation with the political parties for the smooth conduct of elections. It has been flouted at will and with impunity.
A TV channel appeared one day from nowhere, no license required nor the restrictions other starters must face. Someone from the blue yonder, a friend called me one day, to ask if I knew of the private channel the BJP has started telecasting, downlinking thumbing its nose at the regulators.
The Election Commission’s advance permission had not been sought, not officially at least. No one stopped the channel from airing its unadulterated BJP propaganda.
So the channel is going strong, it has not been stopped which means it has the government’s approval.
The Governor of Rajasthan, Kalyan Singh, of Babri demolition fame, meanwhile opted to openly solicit support for Prime Minister Modi and yet again nothing happened apart from the relevant papers moving from from one table to another.
The Rajasthan Governor’s full throated endorsement of Modi, like the appearance of the new BJP channel (NAMO) may be in clear violation of the moral code of conduct but who cares as long as Modiji and Shahji are happy. Mr Rajnath is always around to offer an explanation, if needed.
After all don’t forget that his government does believe that Modi’s lashkars performed better than Indira’s troops in Bangladesh. Remember Modi’s historic “surgical strikes” along the LOC and the lone-MIG attack on Balakot in Pakistan.
That’s why HRD Ministry is keen to rewrite history. Out you go Irfan Habib, Romila Thapar, your kind. Yes, we need to rewrite history, so many problems will go with it.