Friday, February 24, 2012

The diplomacy of law


The Supreme Court(SC) recently passed four judgments which were long awaited for, by the common people and intelligentsia alike – 2G, Army Chief’s age raw, Vodafone and Ramdev. All of them were related to corruption in some or other manner. The judgements passed were expected to leave a historical impact on the way Corporates, Politicians, Governments and ‘Aam Aadmi’ work in this country. There were similar  things on in the neighbourhood as well as in Western World, we’ll take a look on the events taking place there also.

The SC has lately started sounding ambivalent in its decision, some sort of finding always the mid way. It has also formed a love-hate relationship with the government, criticizing it at one time and conforming to its policies at the other. Lets take all the cases one by one and the mid path position taken by SC to make ‘justice seemed to be done’ while at the same time absolving the guilty.

First, the 2G case, the biggest scandal in the history of Independent India. SC while cancelled all the licenses issued there with. It absolved PM of any delinquency. The reason given was that PMO did not apprise him of the full facts and so he can’t be held guilty in the case. Sounds funny, bureaucracy in this country is not so powerful that could keep PM in dark. Moreover what happened with the principle of ministerial accountability and collective responsibility, the arch stones of a Parliamentary Governance? A mid way position where you tell the corporate that it could not go this way, but absolving  the government of any guilt.

Second, Army Chief’s Age Raw – it got to be somebody’s mistake? There is a clear cut scenario where the date was not corrected even after several requests by the Chief and later his acceptance of the date as such ‘under pressure’ and the subsequent denials. Either you punish the record keeping agency and ask it to get its act together or you tell the Chief why so late? Again, a midway, where you condemn both, and appreciate the latter for his bravery, which anyone would, since he is Army Chief and no one has doubts regarding his integrity. What precedent are you setting for less fortunate people, when a powerful person like Army Chief had to fight so much for such a simple thing?

Third, the Vodafone case, SC held that Vodafone wasn’t liable to pay taxes for the transfer deal, since the subsidiary was located in Mauritius. A boon for all those companies who  are evading tax laws of a country by locating subsidiaries in tax heavens. One of the reasons given was the investment climate of the country should be favourable. Then why did you cancel the 2G licences at all, we would have accepted that also as a fait accompli. And did you forget your own judgement in Salwa Judam case, where you dedicated a good part of your judgement in denouncing the neo-liberal policies of the government?  I am not an expert in the legal matters, but a simple reading of the IT Act, mentions that the tax will be levied if the capital is located in the country, which I guess, is located.

Fourth, Ramdev case – it was a shear violation of fundamental rights of the public to protest peacefully. Good, an eloquent judgment was written, mentioning the sleep also as a fundamental right. But Ramdev was also held complicit saying he did not follow the orders of vacating the round. If I am not mistaken, they were protesting there, not performing a rock concert. Is government authorized to suppress any protest just by ordering that place of the protest be vacated?

And about the illegal occupation of the ground, since method of protest was Gandhian, lets compare it to ‘his’ tactics. When he appeared on the Freedom Struggle scene, he broke all sorts of the law, but he never broke the fundamental law of peace. It was he, who started a new phase in the methods of protest by Congress, while Congress used to abide by the law at the time of protests earlier, it was he who brought idea of Non-Cooperation on the forefront. He  used to keep long fasts, he must had been held guilty of ‘attempt to suicide’ in that case. I believe the in this case, there should have been some strict exemplary punishment for the government. As of now, all of you have done is to make them pay compensation, that too using public money.

Now the neighbourhood, Pakistan. The judiciary almost caused a judicial coup there by maintaining a stand that government must reopen cases of President Zardari in swiss courts. And since the government did not comply, prosecution for holding PM, not the PMO, guilty of Contempt Charges started. NO midway was taken. The easy way for the court could have been to criticize the government for its omission and leave the case pending till President dies or gets 98 year old(recently an ex-minister was held guilty at this age in India).

Germany, President had to resign facing the prospect of prosecution for allegations of corruption relating to his prior service as Prime Minister of Lower Saxony. And now compare that with India, he resigned merely on the ‘prospects’ of prosecution, in our country, they try to stay unless the conviction happens.

Indian Judiciary has helped maintaining the ‘Rule of Law’ in the country throughout its entire history. Today also, it makes us feel proud when through various instruments of law, it tries to maintain public confidence in the law. But in the light of multiple cases of judicial corruptions, lack of a judicial accountability mechanism, the opaqueness of selection procedure and such ‘ambivalent’ judgements – judiciary needs to put its house in order so that others may revere it like a temple, for ever.