The Supreme Court (SC) was perceived as soft towards some senior advocates appearing for Congress or in cases where success of the case would indirectly benefit Congress in the 2019 Parliamentary elections. For example, when an advocate told the Court that the case about Ayodhya Land Dispute be taken up after 2019 Parliamentary election and when the matter relating to the allegedly ‘mysterious’ death of Judge B.H. Loya, who was presiding over the infamous Sohrabuddin Sheikh encounter case was admitted by the SC.
Again when SC admitted multiple PIL cases demanding Rafael deal probe (rejected by the Apex Court on Dec. 14, 2018). Now with the SC snubbing the lobby and the Congress in the Rafael deal case, the perception about the Supreme Court being soft to the “lobby” is changing.
But then the trouble for the Modi Government, specially Modi, who has been called ‘chor’ by Congress President Rahul Gandhi to the point of ad nauseum, does not seem to have abated much less ended with this historic verdict of the SC. Look at the pandemonium in the Parliament on Friday, Dec. 14, 2018 created by the Congress. Having lost its battle, vicariously fought, in the SC, Congress was insisting on a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) probe.
Small wonder, why Congress did not think of demanding a JPC probe alongside the pending PIL cases in the SC which sought the Rafael deal to be terminated as it allegedly suffered from serious irregularities and when another petition (paradoxically) by former BJP Union Ministers, Yashwant Sinha and Arun Shourie, and advocate Prashant Bhushan sought a probe on the basis of former French President Francois Hollande saying that the French Government had no option in the choice of an Indian Offset Partner (IOP) and that the Modi Government wanted a novice Reliance Defence Company as the IOP. In other words, to favour Reliance with financial benefits.
Be that as it may, I wonder, if a JPC is set up to probe into the Rafael deal, whether it would really bring out the truth at all. For two reasons: First when the SC itself has found that there was no substance in the allegation and no wrong doing as alleged by the multiple petitioners, that too after scrutinising documents given to the Court in sealed envelopes, how could JPC unearth wrongdoing or corruption? Should the JPC, if and when set up, come out with evidence of wrongdoing, what will be the predicament of the SC? A matter of conjecture.
From our experience, JPCs in the past had produced only a fiction. In any case, the JPC would not be any different in its composition and also findings from the one constituted to probe the Bofors-India deal. It would be interesting to recall how that JPC and the Congress party reduced the Parliament to a rubber stamp and damaged one of the strong pillars of our Democracy. By sheer habit, it seems, Congress wants to repeat the JPC drama to keep the heat on Modi till 2019.
According to a report in the Indian Express of Dec. 2010, the JPC that probed Bofors-India deal was set up, after much resistance, following revelations made by Swedish Radio on April 16, 1987, that Indian politicians and officials were bribed by Swedish arms-maker Bofors to win a contract to supply field guns.
The Bofors deal was signed by the Rajiv Gandhi Government just a year before the scandal broke out. Though the Congress had 410 MPs in the Lok Sabha, it was rattled by the ‘Breaking News’ from Sweden and launched a massive cover-up to shield Rajiv Gandhi and his family from the allegation that they had received commissions from Bofors via front companies and friends with Swiss Bank accounts. As more and more information about the payoffs poured in, the Opposition stepped up pressure for a JPC.
The Congress conceded the demand in three months when it realised that the people had begun to believe that the Prime Minister had something to hide. However, even as it did so, it ensured that the terms of reference put the Committee in a straitjacket. It did not want the Committee to travel abroad or record the testimonies of witnesses in Sweden and Switzerland.
Given these constraints, the Opposition felt that the JPC was a toothless wonder and decided to stay away. The Congress, however, went ahead with this lame duck inquiry and packed the committee with loyalists of Nehru-Gandhi family and chose the most trusted loyalist — B. Shankaranand — as its Chairman.
Since it had over 400 members in the LS, this JPC was an overwhelmingly Congress Committee. Further, in order to give the Committee an ‘all-party’ veneer, some MPs of the smaller, friendly parties who reluctantly occupy Opposition benches, were drafted as members.
Shankaranand lived up to the great expectations that his leader had in him and produced a report which was dubbed a ‘whitewash’ by all citizens who could sift fiction from fact. The Committee claimed in its April 1988 report that no middleman was involved in the gun deal and there was no evidence of commissions or bribes having been paid. The Committee did not summon a single Minister or pose a single question that would have embarrassed the Government.
Surprising, at that time neither the Opposition party nor the NGOs went to the SC with a PIL like it is done now by the well-wishers of Rahul, Congress and internal dissenters of BJP regarding Rafael deal.
Within weeks, the media produced damning evidence of payments made by Bofors to several entities including Ottavio Quattrocchi, a friend of Sonia and Rajiv Gandhi, in whose account Bofors had deposited $7.3 million. Quattrocchi escaped from the country, with Police under Congress closing their eyes. Alleluia!
A year later, the Comptroller and Auditor General questioned many conclusions of this JPC, including the ones pertaining to agents and commissions. He wondered why the government had not acted on the advice of the Indian Ambassador in Sweden that Bofors’ Books of Account be examined by Indian auditors and why the Bofors contract did not specifically contain the ‘no agents’ clause.
As all this evidence tumbled out, it became obvious that Shankaranand Committee Report was not worth the paper it was printed on. No other Parliamentary Committee had wrought such damage to the institution of Parliament as this one. But then, the credibility and dignity of the Parliament has always been sacrificed by the Congress to protect its first family. And now, one wonders, with what face the same Congress is demanding a JPC on Rafael deal after a clean chit given by the SC !
Unfortunately, we now hear the rumblings of resentment to the judgement from both the BJP and the Congress, of course, for different reasons.
While the BJP says the verdict of the SC was a great victory for the Government, the Congress says the BJP Government has misled the SC by filing a misleading affidavit.
In a rebuttal, the Government says the SC misread the note (affidavit), hence has moved the Apex Court on Dec. 15 for correction in the judgement saying, the Court erred in English grammar and misinterpreted the information submitted to it in a sealed cover with the note about the pricing of 36 fighter jets deal.
Reading about the corrections sought, I realised, English is the most deceptive language ever; not a precise one. I should now learn the difference between ‘has been’ and ‘is’ and probably turn to Wren & Martin grammar text of my school days. I am afraid, our SC Judges may have to now call in an English language expert to clarify this confusion !
Interestingly, today’s newspapers inform us that the DMK Supremo M.K. Stalin, son of late M. Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, has proposed Rahul Gandhi’s name as the Prime Ministerial candidate at an Opposition meet in Chennai. It is nothing but one Dynasty paying tribute to another Dynasty. In fact, except for Mamata Banerjee and Mayawati, all others in the Opposition are from Regional Dynasties. It is like Kings paying tributes to the Emperor. Nawabs of small principalities paying Nazrana to the Shahenshah.
Today, it is an imperative for Indian voters to save India from its Dynastic rulers in order to save India’s Democracy and Secularism. Has the Indian voter thought about correcting this fault-line in our present Democracy?
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