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വായന

01 July, 2014

No good tidings yet

BRP Bhaskar
Gulf Today

On the completion of one month in office last week, Priime Minister Narendra Modi wrote that, not unexpectedly, he had been denied the luxury of a ‘honeymoon period’ which new governments traditionally enjoy. Allegations began to be hurled in less than a hundred hours of his assuming office, he added.

His entire team had devoted every single moment for the welfare of the people and every decision the government had taken was guided solely by national interest, he claimed. However, he cited no decision which can be cited as indicative of the good days he had promised during the campaign.

For the people, too, it was no honeymoon period. Commodity prices were on the rise. Railway fares were raised. The administration sought to evade responsibility for the railway rate hike, which came ahead of the budget, saying it was decided upon by the previous government.

The political decisions the government took did not indicate a break with the past. The attempt to get rid of some governors is a case in point.

Under the Constitution, the governor holds office during the pleasure of the president. When the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government came to power in 2004 it had eased out a few governors appointed by the previous Bharatiya Janata Party-led government by expediently withdrawing the president’s pleasure.

The Supreme Court, which went into the matter on a public interest petition, ruled that change of government was not sufficient ground for replacement of governors. There must be compelling and valid reasons for the president to withdraw his pleasure and if a sacked governor approached the court the Centre would have to justify the decision, it said.

Yet the Modi government asked some governors who were either Congressmen or former officials considered close to the Congress leadership to quit. While some obliged without demur, some refused as the demand for resignation was conveyed through bureaucrats.

Pressure is now being exerted on the recalcitrant governors. Constitutional immunity was waived to enable the Central Bureau of Investigation to question West Bengal Governor MK Narayanan in connection with a corruption case.

According to media reports, the government is ready with a list of BJP politicians to be appointed governors as vacancies arise. Evidently Modi has no intention to give up the tradition of political appointments.

A Rajasthan court recently issued summons to Nihal Chand, a Minister of State, to appear before it, along with some others, to answer charges in a rape case. Modi is silent on the opposition’s demand for the minister’s resignation.

The blocking of a respected lawyer’s elevation as Supreme Court judge and the transfer of a special court judge have raised fears that the independence of the judiciary may be compromised.

Most Supreme Court judges have worked their way up from lower courts. In more than six decades there have been only four instances of direct appointment of lawyers as apex court judges. Recently the court’s collegium recommended the names of two lawyers, Gopal Subramaniam and Rohinton F Nariman, both of whom had earlier served as Solicitor General, along with that of Calcutta High Court Chief Justice Arum Mishra, for appointment as Supreme Court judges. The government approved the names of Mishra and Nariman, and sent back Subramaniam’s case for reconsideration.

When the special investigation team which looked into allegations of Modi’s complicity in the Gujarat riots of 2002 reported that there was no “prosecutable evidence” against him, Gopal Subramaniam, who was helping the Supreme Court as amicus curie, had differed with its assessment.

Government sources said Subramaniam was blackballed as the CBI and the Intelligence Bureau had reported he had corporate links and ‘personality oddities’. Few give credence to the adverse reports of the agencies as both of them had sought his legal services on several occasions in the past two decades. Former Law Minister Shanti Bhushan charged that the agencies were induced to do a hatchet job.

Following the government’s objection to his appointment, Subramaniam withdrew the consent he had given to serve as judge. The law, as it now stands, would have left the government with no choice but to accept his name if the collegium had reiterated its original recommendation.

Mumbai CBI court judge JT Utpat, who was hearing two fake encounter cases transferred from Gujarat, in which Amit Shah, Modi’s man for all seasons, and some senior police officers figure as accused, was shifted to Pune last week.

The transfer, reportedly at his own request, came ahead of a ruling on Shah’s application for discharge. A few days ago the judge had chided Shah’s lawyer for repeatedly seeking exemption from appearance for him without assigning reasons.--Gulf Today, Sharjah, July 1, 2014.

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