CBI: Even the country’s premier investigative agency, the CBI, has lost the respect of most people after infighting, brought about by the government’s desire to have a more ‘friendly’ face at the helm, became public
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
The threat of India being converted into a dictatorship has become stronger with the mudslinging on Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi. Since the government could not involve him in a financial scam they have fallen to the extent of accusing him of sexual misconduct. Gogoi should not quit his office and it is our hope that his fellow judges Law & Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad will stand by him
If the BJP is re-elected to power it is almost certain that it will be the last election to be held in Goa. It will be an action replay of what happened in Nazi Germany. Adolf Hitler was elected as President of Chancellor of Germany democratically through parliament. Soon after he became the president he arrested all his opponents and declared himself supreme leader. He abolished the courts which had challenged his elevation to the president’s post. Like the BJP, Hitler also created a large group of radical young men similar to the RSS which became his private army.
Except in the case of India the RSS came first and then the BJP. The BJP has been becoming more and more virulent in projecting an aggressive version of Hindutva. In fact, even the RSS, which has been marginalised by the Narendra Modi-Amit Shah combine, has opposed the BJP ticket being given to Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, the motorcycle-riding priestess of Hindutva.
It is alleged that it was Pragya’s bike which was used to set off the explosions which caused the death of more than 200 Muslims in the textile town of Malegaon which is dominated by the minority Muslim community. Initially the Maharashtra police arrested 50 Muslims for the same crime. It was the painstaking investigation of Head of SIT Hemant Karkare which proved that the blast or terrorist action was the act of a group of Hindu terrorists headed by a Lt Col Prasad Shrikant Purohit in which Pragya played a major part. The same group was also suspected of being involved in other terrorist acts, including planting bombs in the Samjhauta Express — started during Vajpayee’s time to link India with Pakistan.
There were at least four cases of bombings in which the hand of Hindu terror was suspected. Sadhvi Pragya is a member of the Abhinav Bharat, a far-right Hindu organisation founded by Retired Major of Indian Army Ramesh Upadhyay, and Lt Col Purohit. to retaliate against Muslim terror, which is suspected to be heavily involved in these cases.
When the BJP came to power the majority of those accused in the Hindu terror cases were acquitted or given bail. The trial is still going on against Sadhvi Pragya but despite this she has been given a ticket while out on bail.
There are already over a hundred candidates with a criminal record in the BJPs list of those contesting the Lok Sabha elections. This does not include the gau rakshaks and other Hindutva fanatics like Swami Adityanath.
The first institution to be undermined was the CBI. To further their own agenda, Amit Shah and Modi brought in a 1984-batch Indian Police Service officer of the Gujarat cadre, Rakesh Asthana, to become Special Director of the CBI. Soon a war broke out between Asthana who was targeting so-called enemies of the BJP and his boss, CBI Director Alok Verma. Overnight at 3pm in the morning Verma was suspended from office on charges of corruption levied by Asthana. M Nageshwar Rao was appointed interim director. Fortunately for Verma, the Supreme Court intervened and ruled that the status quo would be maintained until an enquiry was completed against the charges facing the director. The Supreme Court also removed the acting CBI chief Nageshwar Rao. Verma had argued that there was no precedent for appointing an interim CBI chief .
To ensure the independence of the CBI, which is an autonomous organisation, the committee which selects the CBI chief includes the Chief Justice of India, the prime minister (who is the chairperson) and the leader of the Opposition. No such consultation was carried about before sacking the director and appointing the interim director. In a similar incident the Supreme Court pulled up the CBI for conducting raids and attempting to arrest the Director General of West Bengal. Even Mamta Banerjee joined the protest against the arrest of the Kolkata DGP. This case was referred by the CBI to be examined in Ranchi instead of Kolkata where there may be pressure.
More recently the CBI was warned not to carry out politically motivated raids. This was in the context of hundreds of CBI investigators descending on the Congress chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and his relatives and friends in MP. During the ongoing elections ironically the largest amounts of cash and daru were seized from BJP leaders. Not surprisingly the BJP also got the biggest donations from companies and individuals.
Other institutions which have been undermined include our economic watch dog — the Reserve Bank of India.
It will be recalled that the Modi government refused to give noted economist Raghuram Rajan a second term as governor of the RBI. Unfortunately for Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, after the failure of demonetisation the new Director Urjit Patel refused to bend to the wishes of Modi. On the contrary he made it very difficult for Modi to favour his friends by waiving off loans and letting them leave the country. The RBI introduced a bill through which if a company defaulted even by one day in paying back the loan, the assets would be taken over. They would not able to run away like Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and company.
Despite this the Modi government has not taken any action against Anil Ambani who owes banks
35,000 crores and the Dhoot brothers of Videocon who have dues of90,000 crore. The most glaring example of crony capitalism is the extra time given to Subhash Chandra of Zee TV who owes banks `8,000 crore and has pledged all his shares in Essel Park and other companies. It is not a coincidence that Subhash Chandra is the president of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), a sister organisation of the RSS. Zee TV is completely devoted to the BJP and has been hauled up by the Election Commission for being one sided and spreading lies about the Opposition.
EC IN DANGER
The other institution that the BJP has tried to destroy is the Election Commission itself.
The BJP got the chance to appoint its own man, Sunil Arora (Rajasthan cadre) as the Election Commissioner. The EC had not been taking any action on hate speeches by Yogi Adityanath and other BJP leaders. The Supreme Court had to intervene to force the EC to gag Yogi Adityanath. The EC also took an opportunity to silence those who oppose the BJP, like Mayawati.
EC rules require that those with criminal records have to file a report in three newspapers and three televisions stations before the elections. Though there are at least four candidates including Francisco Sardinha, Elvis Gomes and two others, who have cases against them, none of the details have been published as required by the EC.
EVMs are malfunctioning, but always in favour of the BJP. There have been reports that if you press any button it is the lotus that lights up. The BJP has refused the demand for 100% verification of the electronic vote through the VPAT trail. Admittedly, if this is done counting will take several days as it used to when ballot paper was used.
SC – OUR LAST DEFENCE
The only institution which has the courage to take on the Modi government is the Supreme Court.
It may be recall that a group of four judges, headed by present Chief Justice Ranjan Gogoi opposed the rotation of judges by former Chief Justice Dipak Mishra who was master of the roster.
CJ Mishra was suspected of favouring the ruling government. However, the former chief justice could not do much damage as both the number two, Gogoi, and the number three, Kurian Joseph, were very tough judges.
The Modi government tried their best to find charges of financial irregularities against Gogoi. They failed and they found that after 40 years of service as a judge Gogoi has only `6.8 lakh in his bank accounts. Now one lady has accused him of molestation. It is suspected that the molestation charge is part of a conspiracy to have Gogoi removed.
The urgency is because in the next one month until the elections are complete and the results are announced there are many important cases coming up before the SC. This includes cases against Rahul Gandhi filed by the BJP government and other cases in which BJP has a vested interest. This includes the challenge to the triple talaq ordinance, which was not passed by the Rajya Sabha.
There are cases also pending against Yogi Adityanath and most importantly the case to decide who owns the land on which the Babri Masjid ruins stand. An earlier judgment has ruled that the land should be equally divided between the Muslims and the Hindus which was objected to by the BJP and the RSS.
Given the circumstances and since the Modi government has sowed the seeds of dissention between the 27 judges of the SC, Gogoi could not handover the case to any other judge. He acted wisely in immediately calling for a meeting of the court and leaving to his junior colleagues to pass any order that was appropriate.
Fortunately or unfortunately there are no rules to decide how charges of inappropriate behaviour by the Chief Justice of the SC should be dealt with. Gogoi’s term has another 70 days to end and more importantly the BJP will be in power for the first 30 days of that period. It is vital that he should continue to remain chief justice and not fall a victim to the dirty tricks of the BJP.
The Supreme Court reinstated CBI Director Alok Verma in January this year, on grounds that the government cannot transfer or alter the duties of the CBI chief without going to the Selection Committee.
However, Verma, was again transferred by a 2:1 majority within 48 hours after rejoining following the SC order. The PM and Justice Sikhri (nominated by the CJI) voted to transfer him.
Verma refused to join his new post as Director General, Fire Services, Civil Defence and Home Guards, writing to Chandramouli C, Secretary, Department of Personnel and Training (DoPT), that as he would have already been superannuated as on July 31, 2017, and was only serving the government as Director, CBI, till January 31, 2019, as the same was a fixed tenure role. Since he was no longer CBI Director and had already crossed superannuation age for DG Fire Services he asked to be deemed superannuated with immediate effect.
In the letter, Verma also lamented that he was not given the opportunity to provide an explanation on the graft charges levelled against him by the Central Vigilance Commission, on the basis of which he was removed from the post of Director, Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI).
Ranjan Gogoi denies charge
In an “extraordinary and unusual hearing” presided over by him and called at a moment’s notice on Saturday, Chief Justice of India (CJI) Ranjan Gogoi took on the allegation of sexual harassment published against him by some online news portals, saying “things have gone too far” and “the judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat.”
“Why do you think a person decides to become a judge? Reputation is all that matters for a judge. If that is also under attack, what is left?” he asked.
“This is unbelievable. I should not stoop low even in denying it. `6.8 lakh is all I have as bank balance… They cannot catch me on money, so they have brought up this. This is the reward a Chief Justice of India gets after 20 years and a bank balance of Rs. 6.8 lakh. Independence of judiciary is under very very serious threat. I had to tell this from the judicial seat,” he said.
Justice Arun Mishra, who along with Justice Sanjeev Khanna formed the CJI’s companion judges on the Bench, termed the allegation “wild and baseless”.
Speaking for the Bench, Justice Mishra asked the media to exercise restraint, but did not pass any judicial order gagging the latter.
Both Attorney General K.K. Venugopal and Solicitor-General Tushar Mehta were present in the courtroom along with Supreme Court Bar Association president and senior advocate Rakesh Khanna.
The Court declined Mr Mehta’s request to allow him to register formal proceedings in the matter.
Mr Mehta termed the allegation “rubbish”. Mr Venugopal said not only the judges but lawyers were also under attack for representing their clients. The media reports have violated the dictates of absolute confidentiality required in such allegations.
The day saw a sudden rush of events with news websites publishing the report about a former Court employee accusing the CJI of making sexual advances towards her while she was working as a junior court assistant last year.
The article said that the woman, in her mid-thirties, complained of subsequent police harassment against her and alleged that she was unceremoniously dismissed from service. She also reportedly wrote to 22 Supreme Court judges on April 19 about her allegation.
One of the websites reported that the Secretary General of the Court had denied her claims and called them “completely and absolutely false and scurrilous”.
The publication of the allegation saw the Court react almost instantly. A notice of a special open court session at 10.30 a.m. was circulated among the media.
“The responsibility of calling this hearing is mine. We had to take this extraordinary and unusual step because things have gone too far. Judiciary cannot be made a scapegoat,” Chief Justice Gogoi addressed the assembled court.
“Less than 10 hours’ notice was given to me to respond. What I want to tell citizens is that judiciary of this country is under serious threat”, he said.
Justice Khanna, the youngest judge and in line to be Chief Justice of India, said judicial work was guided by zest to learn the truth, however uncomfortable it may be. Such “baseless” allegation and its publication shackled judicial independence. “Judiciary cannot be put under any refrain… We should not be made to feel constrained,” he stated.
Chief Justice Gogoi said he would continue to perform his duties without fear or favour till the end of his tenure and would not be cowed down.
At the end of the half-hour hearing, the CJI said he would not pass any judicial order in the matter and left it to Justice Mishra to take the lead and do what was necessary.
“My colleague here is probably the senior most among us… I will not pass any orders in this matter. I leave it to him,” he said.
Justice Mishra, speaking for the Bench, said there was no need to pass a judicial order in the case. Rather, the Court would leave it to the wisdom of the media to show the restraint required of them. The Court left it to the media to act responsibly in publishing anything so that the independence of the judiciary was not affected by the “wild and baseless” allegation against the CJI.
To Mr Mehta’s urging to allow him to register formal proceedings, the CJI did not agree. “We don’t want to do anything like that now. We expect the media to exercise restraint, act responsibly and act according to their wisdom,” he said.
Whatever judicial orders, if required, may be passed at an appropriate time in the future, he said.
Courtesy: The Hindu