Saturday, October 31, 2009

While I reiterate my faith on the Constitution in the context of Justice P.D.Dinakaran...

I can insist upon that everyone must believe in the Constitutional scheme and wait for the Hon’ble judge, P.D.Dinakaran to be impeached; after all,neither did I have any land in Kaverirajapuram (where the Lord owns a couple of hundred acres in his own name and encroached a similar extent of land from the public) nor did I suffer directly due to his orders such as the one involving the land in the famous Binny Mills case. I can afford to believe in the Constitution and the rule of the law because I have not lost anything to the Dinakarans.

I shall insist upon living with the hope that Justice Dinakaran will be impeached some day because I know that I will not lose anything and that nothing will happen to my own life or property even if the Hon’ble judge is not impeached. I do know, even before someone reminds me, as to what happened to the grand idea of impeachment in the case of Justice V.Ramasamy. A majority of the Hon’ble MPs, at that time, decided to vote against his impeachment even while they knew that the Hon’ble judge was guilty of corruption. I remember Kapil Sibal’s defence of Ramasamy then. And I do feel that Justice Dinakaran too will find a lot of prominent men to defend him and ensure his exoneration even if he is sought to be impeached.

I will not be affected either way. And in the event he is impeached, I shall go around telling my friends that I was also a small cog in the wheel. I might even be able to exaggerate my role in the campaign at that time!

The point is that it is impossible to expect someone who lost his land to the avarice of the Dinakarans or for that matter to one or another of the miners (who benefited from Justice Dinakaran’s or another such judge’s orders) to believe that the Constitution and the scheme it prescribes to ensure justice, freedom and all the rights of a human being will take care of such men who abuse their powers and wait for the law to take its own course. And someone who seeks to resist the alienation of his land may, at some point, refuse to stop with prayers, petitions and appeals.

The struggle for preventing such alienation of land, in the natural course, does not turn violent; because those who agitate to save their land and property also know for sure that the armed might of the state is too big for them to overcome. In other words, the people know for sure that the police will beat them up and even shoot them down even at the slightest pretext; and hence will insist on remaining non-violent. And try to petition the powers that be seeking justice. The trouble, however, is that such acts do not lead them to anywhere near justice. The media refuses to take note of such struggles. And in the event the protests are led by someone like us, who believe in the Constitution and its scheme, it loses steam at some point.

But then, to those who had lost their land and their livelihood, the choice is then between death due to starvation or death while fighting for restoration of their rights. And that leads to some of them taking to arms. This is now happening in the large swathes of land in West Midnapore in West Bengal. This was noticed for some years in the villages in Chattisgarh and has intensified now. This was happening for sometimes now in large parts of Jharkhand. And this is also happening in some parts of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Orissa. As for the media, it is a fact that in most cases the long story of this process is sought to be pushed under the carpet and any resistance, in any form, to the alienation of land and livelihood of the people by the state and its machinery (whose Constitutional duty is to protect these rights of the people) is simply described as being a menace!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Of ``Crimes'' and ``Punishments''

During the week that went by, the security guard at our apartment complex dutifully informed me that he, along with some others like him in the adjoining apartments, had caught a thief the previous night. I could see a glee on his face when he said that a police officer, who lives in the vicinity, was kind enough to wake up when they pressed the bell at his door, even at that late hour, and acted swiftly to have the inspector at the local police station to come over and take the thief away.

And after he narrated all this, I wanted to know as to what did the man steal; and was told that the man whom they apprehended was caught stealing some used clothes (that were hung on the terraces for drying) and some old footwear. Well. The law of the land does not discriminate between someone who steals used clothes and another who steals away large amounts of cash or yet another who takes away another person’s gold. All these amount to stealing. Indeed, if you are from an upper middle class family, such acts will be called kleptomania and not theft!

Coming back to where I began, I got wondering about something that I had been reading in the papers for a few weeks now. And also the fact that having turned into a practicing lawyer, I am also a small cog in the campaign for judicial accountability and hoping that the world in which we now live can be turned a bit more humane than it is now. The campaign that I am talking about is that involving the large tracts of land, real estate and other property now in possession of Justice P.D.Dinakaran, presently Chief Justice of the Karnataka High Court.

The campaign, in fact, is not based on mere apprehension that the judge has abused his office (as some friends ask me even now) but is on the basis of true copies of the revenue records obtained through legitimate means. The fact is that the charges of encroachment of public land by this constitutional functionary has been confirmed in the official report by the Collector of the district (where the judge owns some property and has encroached the adjacent land too) to the Chief Justice of India, Justice K.G.Balakrishnan.

It makes sense, in this context, to also place on record that one K.Balakrishnan, a leaders of the farmers union and the one who led the people in the said village against the unconstitutional act by Judge P.D.Dinakaran is now being reminded of the several cases against him. Lest it be mistaken, this Balakrishnan faces police cases because he has taken up public causes and not because he is a thief or an encroacher. Even recently, he was held in jail for having led an agitation demanding the right of Dalits to enter a temple.

But then, Justice K.G.Balakrishnan would not like to trust this Balakrishnan. Nor would Justice Balakrishnan trust the collector whose report says that Justice Dinakaran is guilty of having encroached upon public land. The fact is that Justice Balakrishnan, whose constitutional responsibility is to ensure the constitutional scheme of things and hence is duty bound to go by the report of the district collector (who is the appropriate authority to deal with revenue related disputes) has chosen to distrust the collector’s report in the case of Justice Dinakaran.

Justice Dinakaran’s property in Chennai city (at Shenoy Nagar) stands as a testimony to his illegal ways. The CMDA had sanctioned only thee floors but the judge built an extra floor. I do wonder if that should be accepted as nothing serious because the judges, after all, are permitted to break the rules day in and day after. Those in Chennai will know that the judges of the High Court do not follow the traffic rules! And what if Justice Dinakaran constructed an extra floor in his property in Shenoy Nagar? Why make that an issue?

After all, almost all constructions on the Ranganathan Street in T.Nagar have done what Justice Dinakaran has done in Shenoy Nagar!

But then, the point is that there are cases against this violation, in the form of Public Interest Writ Petitions before the Hon’ble Madras High Court and someone like Justice Dinakaran is expected to pass judgment on those. And that is why we argue that the judge should not be allowed to continue in his position. But then, Justice K.G.Balakrishnan seems to believe that Justice Dinakaran must be taken in as judge in the Supreme Court rather than left behind in the Karanataka High Court! And given Dinakaran’s age and that of the other judges in the Supreme Court, it is most certain that this man from Arakonam will one day become the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court!

Well. I do know that we cannot insist that Justice Dinakaran too must be meted out with the same ``justice’’ that was meted out to that unknown man who was caught stealing old clothes and used footwear by our watchman. I shall reiterate my faith, at least for now, in the Constitution. But then, this binds me to expect that Justice Dinakaran will be impeached one day.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

The Courts, the parks and the statues...

Going by reports in the English language media, a full fledged war is in the making. The terrain of this war in the making, if one takes media reports seriously, is going to be one of the court halls in the Supreme Court of India. The provocation for this, according to the media, is Mayawati’s intransigent attitude over the issue of building parks across Uttar Pradesh and more importantly the installation of her own statues there.

To place things on record, let it be stressed that parks are not a bad idea after all. In the manner in which our towns are growing with so much concrete invading the land which was otherwise used to grow plants, we do need parks. Well. Let me hasten to add that it is disturbing to see a lot of concrete and ceramic tiles being used even while parks are constructed, defeating the very purpose of such open spaces. Parks, as we have known, are places where there are trees, plants and preferably a pond with some open space too.

The idea is that the old people go there to spend an evening, the middle aged take a walk and the children play around. We will also remember the character known as Mannaaar and Company in one of our own cinema of yesteryears. Well. Parks serve a lot of purpose and there is nothing wrong with them as such.

So, why is the Supreme Court bothered about parks coming in Lucknow and elsewhere in Uttar Pradesh and even daring the State Government in Lucknow for a confrontation (I presume that one of the papers that reported this was correct) on that issue. It cannot be that the Hon’ble judges are insensitive to the needs of some greenspace in the towns. It also cannot be that they do not go to parks. I know they visit parks, love to take a stroll there and even spend some little money when the travel abroad to walk into parks.

The reason, I can think of, behind all the noise is that it involves Mayawati. This is certainly true of the media and its obsession. I am also unable to desist from placing on record the fact that Abhishek Manu Singhvi, who waxes eloquent on TV, day after day, on the Congress party’s commitment to liberty, equality and fraternity and also its new slogan of ``aaam aadmi’’ happens to be the counsel arguing against these parks in Lucknow and other parts of Uttar Pradesh.

In any case, I am planning to approach Singhvi with a brief. That the stretch between the Rajghat and the Yamuna bridge in Delhi be cleaned up; that the land there shall not have any statues or memorials. The point is that if there is a norm against Mayawati’s statues being installed, it should hold good in case of a Sanjay Gandhi too. Having said this, I am not too sure if I will have the money to pay Singhvi’s fees. I know it runs into a few lakhs for an appearance. That would lead us to the point that the litigant against Mayawati’s statue installation spree is someone who has lots of money to spend on such a public cause!

Lest I am mistaken, let me clarify something. Erecting statues and building parks in the manner in which they are done by Mayawati and many others in our political stable are simply odious. They are done with perverse motives and in order to perpetuate their own memory in the same way as the Kings and the Queens did in the ancient and middle ages. We do visit such places like Sanchi or Agra to see the stupa or the Taj Mahal. And remember Ashoka or Shah Jahan in the process.

But then, let us remember that those were different times. Neither was Shah Jahan a democrat nor was there any such thought during Ashoka’s time. The trouble is that our own kings are queens forget, very often, that they live in times when it is improper to indulge in self perpetuation. Mayawati, it is sad, does not believe that the agenda of Dalit assertion must strive for social, political and economic justice. Instead, she too behaves like another political leader and reduces the cause she claims to represent into one of defending her own right to perpetuate her own self and indulge in preserving herself.

It does substantial harm to the cause of Dalit assertion. But then, there is no way one can see the media’s attitude to the issue as being democratic. It is clearly a reflection of prejudice.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Quattrocchi, they say is not a fugitive now and Bofors they say is just a ghost!!!

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is known to be a straight-forward man apart from being one who adores the IMF-World Bank scheme of development. It is, hence, no wonder that he rants against corruption and has even gone to town, recently, that the Government would enact a law to confiscate the property of those who are found corrupt.

Dr. Singh may even mean it. But then he certainly does not mean any of this when it comes to those who are perceived to be Sonia Gandhi’s friends. A proof of this came this week when Solicitor General Gopal Subramaniam told the Supreme Court that the Government decided to drop the case against Ottavio Quattrocchi. Well. For those readers who were born after 1989, Quattrocchi is that Italian national who received kickbacks from Bofors, the Swedish gun manufacturer in return for his ``services’’ pushing through a deal involving purchases of 155 mm Howitzer guns by the Government of India in 1986.

There were others who were established agents in defence purchases and among them was Win Chadha. He too was paid off by Bofors for the deal. And then there were the Hinduja brothers who were also paid certain sums by Bofors as part of the same deal. This man called Quattrocchi, however, was neither a defence spare dealer nor an agent. He was the India representative of an Italian multinational called Snam Progetti. And that company was dealing with projects involved in erecting fertilizer manufacturing plants.

This did not qualify Quattrocchi to get money from Bofors. Instead, he qualified to be paid off by the arms company because he happened to be a friend of Sonia Gandhi; and that too at a time when Sonia husband, Rajiv Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India; and it so happened that Bofors, at that time, was running into some trouble due to fall in its order book and hence desperate to see through the deal to sell 400 of the 155 mm howitzer field guns to the Government without loss of time.

To cut a long story short, the contract between the Government of India and the Bofors company was that the deal excluded middlemen (agents in other words) and hence there was no way that the company could have paid money even to Chadha and the Hindujas. And Quattrocchi, in any case, had nothing to do with the business. And after all the preliminary formalities the army decided firmly in favour of Bofors (rejecting the French gun Sofma) price negotiations began on December 13, 1985 and concluded on March 23, 1986. The gun manufacturer had just about a week to clinch the deal after the price negotiations.

The point was that if the deal was not clinched before March 31, 1986, the budget allocations would lapse and the company would have had to wait for some months before it was reopened and clinched. Bofors knew the way to get over this and that was where Quattrocchi came in. The friend of the Prime Minister’s wife was powerful enough to get such things done. And he managed that. The Rajiv Gandhi government took just 24 hours to endorse that recommendation and the contract was signed on March 24, 1986.

And Quattrocchi did not do all that to ensure that the Indian army was equipped adequately with the gun. Instead, he received money for the ``services’’ from Bofors. The Swedish Natiopnal Audit Bureau revealed that Bofors had deposited as much as 250 million US Dollars (Rs. 64 Crores by the exchange rate at that time) into three coded accounts in a Swiss Bank: Svenska, Pitco, and AE Services. While Svenska belonged to Chadha, Pitco belonged to the Hindujas. And AE Services belonged to Quattrocchi.

The CBI knows for sure that 73 lakh US Dollars (Rs. 18.7 Crores going by the exchange rates at that time) went into Quattrocchi’s account in the Nordfinanz Bank in Zurich. The deposit was made on September 3, 1986. The CBI also knows that most of the funds were transferred to the Union Bank of Switzerland, Geneva into the account of Colbar Invesment and moved out of that account too (within a couple of months) to yet another bank in the British Channel Islands by this man called Quattocchi. He lived in New Delhi, playing golf and attending parties until July 29, 1993 before flying off to Malaysia. An Interpol red corner notice on request from the CBI led to his arrest in Argentina; but the CBI, then under Manmohan Singh’s UPA-I let him go by fighting the case badly.

And the declaration now that the case against the Italian fugitive will be dropped because efforts to catch him did not succeed even while Manmohan Singh is raving and ranting against corruption is certainly ridiculous. Well, we the people of India seem to have learnt to tolerate the corrupt be they from the secular, the communal of ``innocent’’ lot.