CRIMINAL: In a criminal act of drowning green Goa in mass Covid-19 infection, the government has removed all restrictions for people entering the State. No certificates needed, no testing at borders or airports or railway and bus stations, if you decide you want to come and have some fun in Goa
BY RAJAN NARAYAN
AND a few stray thoughts for yet another Saturday. For a Saturday following the week when the Supreme Court bench led by Judge Arun Mishra imposed a penalty of Rs1 on senior advocate Prashant Bhushan in a contempt case. For a Saturday following the week when former President of India Pranab Mukerjee died after a long illness. For a Saturday following the week when the number of Covid-19 cases in Goa crossed the 18,000 mark with Tuesday alone recording a new record of 588 cases. For a Saturday following the week when the name of God, including Tirupathi deity, was allegedly misused to launder money in narcotics trade. For a Saturday following the week when India and China seem to be on the verge of another major war as it happened in July 1, 1954 when Bomdila was captured by the Chinese. For a Saturday following the week when ironically even as the fortunes of the Ambanis and Adanis rose sharply, the gross development product fell by 23.5% in the first quarter of the current financial year. For a Saturday following the week when Covid-19 disrupted the IPL tournament being held in the Gulf and might even later lead to cancelation of the ISL.
one rupee penalty
And a few stray thoughts on the Supreme Court bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra who has just retired passing a sentence of Rs1 on very senior advocate Prashant Bhushan (who fought the Goa Foundation case in Supreme Court) for allegedly tweeting that more than half of the Supreme Court judges are corrupt. Clearly, the bench lead by Justice Arun Mishra did not have the guts to confront Prashant Bhushan and in the process reduced the whole case to a farce. Even the veteran attorney general of the country, Dr Venugopal, had advised the SC Bench not to impose any punishment on Prashant Bhushan.
So finally the leading civil rights champion Prashant Bhushan has up to September pay the Rs1 fine imposed. If he fails to do so the consequences are serious in that Prashant Bhushan will be barred from practicing in the Supreme Court for three years besides having to spend three months in jail!
It is only to be hoped that a larger bench led by the Chief Justice will act to correct this travesty of justice. Nobody disputes that the truth of the tweets of Prashant Bhushan is that there is widespread corruption in the Indian judiciary including at the level of the SC. It will be recalled that when Justice Ranjan Gogoi was chief justice as many as 12 senior judges staged a protest against his usurping to himself the right to constitute benches to hear various critical cases pending before the SC. At that time among the cases pending was the Ram Janmabhoomi case where among the accused were several BJP leaders, including veteran leader LK Advani.
It is a convention that the Chief Justice of the SC will not accept any favours from the ruling party after his retirement. However, Justice Ranjan Gogoi accepted the BJP nomination to the Rajya Sabha within weeks of retiring as chief justice. It is even rumoured that Ranjan Gogoi will be the chief ministrial candidate in the next Assembly elections in Assam.
Even if it is not a case of outright corruption bench hunting is among the favourite methods engaged by lawyers to ensure that a case goes in favour of their client. Just as not all fingers of one hand are the same judges also come from different backgrounds and have different attitudes. For instance, there are the green judges who are fanatical about protecting the environmental and heritage. Among the most famous of the green judges was Justice Michael Saldanha, who was horrified over my conviction in the Churchill Alemao contempt case and was transferred from Mumbai and retired in Bengaluru.
We have the green judges to thank for ensuring Goa and large parts of the country have not yet been turned into a concrete jungle. Green judges have also saved several archaeological monuments and would have dismissed outright Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant’s proposal to build another Raj Bhavan so that the original heritage property Raj Bhavan could be converted into a high end tourism hospitality property by a private party. Every political party tries to pack the judiciary with its own candidates so that they will get verdicts in their favour.
Interestingly, it was the distinguished father of senior advocate Prashant Bhushan, the late Shanti Bhushan, who was the Allahabad High Court judge who disqualified Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for engaging in corrupt electoral practises. The petitioner in the case was not Rajan Narayan but Raj Narain of the Janata Dal party. It was this verdict that provoked the late Indira Gandhi to declare her infamous Emergency and supercede the senior most judges of the SC in an act of match-fixing.
There are judges on the other hand who are very sympathetic to industry and always favour big moneybags like Ambanis and Adanis. There are also judges who are very liberal and in contrast judges who are very conservative. A liberal bench of the court decriminalised homosexuality. Unfortunately, for the gay community, a bench of the SC which happened to be of ultra-conservative judges, made them criminals again – thus, squashing the earlier judgement! Then fortunately a larger bench headed by a liberal chief justice restored freedom to be different to the gay community.
But what Prashant Bhushan has been fighting is not just bench hunting, which itself is a form of corruption, but direct corruption of chief justices of the SC. Apparently Prashant Bhushan must have proof of his allegations as he repeatedly refused the offer of the bench headed by Justice Mishra to apologize for his tweeted remarks. He pointed out repeatedly that “Truth is a defence in a contempt case.” The SC bench did not want to challenge Prashant Bhushan as it would have caused great embarrassment to the Judiciary if even one chief justice was proved corrupt. Provision for contempt in the law is to protect the image of the Judiciary. Before the SC decided that truth is a permissible defence in any case which cast aspersions on judges, the logic is that any allegation against a single judge lowered the dignity and esteem of the entire Judiciary.
I unfortunately was hauled up for contempt before the amendment and therefore had to apologize to the Mumbai High Court even though it was acknowledged by my allegations against a judge hearing the Alvarnas Alemao case was corrupt.
AND a few stray thoughts on the sad demise of the former president of India, Pranab Mukerjee. Pranab Mukerjee was a close confidant of the Gandhi family and probably hoped that he would be made prime minister when Sonia Gandhi refused the post even when the Congress got a majority in the Parliamentary elections. Sonia Gandhi chose to install Dr Manmohan Singh as the prime minister instead of Pranab Mukerjee. This is because Sonia Gandhi knew that Pranab Mukerjee was very independent and ambitious and would not dance to the tunes of the Gandhi family.
Pranab Mukerjee was one of the best finance ministers of India with the exception perhaps of Manmohan Singh. The Gandhi parivar also never trusted Pranab Mukerjee who was perceived as a Hindu fundamentalist sympathetic to the BJP. So when President APJ Abdul Kalam expired Sonia Gandhi decided to nominate Pranab Mukerjee to the post. There is no doubt that Pranab Mukerjee was fully qualified for the highest position in the country. At least on paper the president is the Supreme Authority of the country and can even veto bills passed by Parliament.
Except that if Parliament after discussing the bill again sends it back to him the president has no choice but to give his approval. Again in theory the president is the commander and chief of the armed forces. There are several instances when Pranab Mukerjee as president defied the Gandhi family. Sonia Gandhi discovered that President Pranab Mukerjee was more of a nuisance as a president than he might have been as prime minister! Manmohan Singh of course was a total chamcha of Sonia Gandhi and never questioned any of her decisions right or wrong.
It is very unfortunate that Manmohan Singh, who had little or no control over his Cabinet and reported directly to Sonia Gandhi, was implicated in the big coal scam. This happened as by virtue of the minister for coal who was very corrupt being sacked, Manmohan Singh by default held the portfolio for a while when a large block of coal was allegedly allotted to the Birlas without conducting any auction. It was with the results of the coal scam that the SC decided that all natural resources belong to the country and had to be auctioned if it was necessary to sell them.
This also applies for iron ore and this is what is preventing Goa Chief Minister Pramod Sawant from renewing the mining leases of those convicted by the SC for gross corruption to the extent of Rs 35,000 crore. The mining lobby in collusion with the government is trying to amend the mining act so that the lease period of 30 years will be calculated from 1989 and not from 1961 as is being done presently.
FREE FOR ALL!
AND a few stray thoughts on the government of Goa throwing open the holiday State’s borders to the coronavirus along with tourists and the skilled and unskilled migrant workers who had left Goa so bitterly during the Covid-19 lockdown. The bulk of the industries in Goa have been dependent on highly skilled migrant workers. President of the Goa Chamber of Commerce Manoj Caculo has in fact been pressurising the CM to permit the three lakh odd migrant workers who left to return to Goa. Goa must be the only State in the country which has now permitted a virtually free entry back into the State without either a Covid-19 negative certificate or border checking.
As it is several thousand or more people and particularly the bold and beautiful, rich and powerful, have been coming to Goa freely with the complicity of officials to escape quarantine or lockdown periods in their own states in Goa. They all are aware that unlike in states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu which are worst hit by Covid-19, they are free to do whatever they want to do in Goa. Not just frolicking on Goa’s beaches but even participating in rave parties in Morjim or Patnem or Canacona beaches.
new covid-19 peak
The results are already evident with Thursday registering the highest number of Covid-19 cases at 713. It is also being openly being admitted by the health authorities that the speed and scope of testing has come down very sharply, which hides the actual figures of those who are positive. Most of the tests being conducted are the antigen tests which have proved to be very unreliable. If the antigen test reveals that the patient is positive it is probably correct but its record in negative reports is very suspect. The gold standard of testing is the PCR test which has been reduced sharply. So much so the actual number of Covid-19 patients in the State may be much higher than reported by the Directorate of Health Services, Goa.
The worst part is that Goa’s aam adami has lost confidence in the government facilities whether it be Covid-19 centres for quarantine or the actual treatment centres in government hospitals. Those who test positive and who are suspected to be asymptomatic are also kept in large hostels of institutions like the Industrial Training Institute which can offer a bed capacity for 500 or more patients, and even the Dr Shyama Prasad Mukerjee indoor stadium had been converted into a Covid-19 centre for housing patients.
Compared to number of patients staff availability for taking care of the patients is very meagre. There is a severe shortage particularly of nurses and attendants even though they are offered relatively attractive compensation. Most who apply for the post of attendants are migrants as fewer Goans will risk looking after coronavirus infected patients. Admission to the Margao ESI hospital or even the GMC wards is seen as a one-way ticket to heaven or hell.
There is the option of private Manipal hospital which is treating all political VIPs including the Director of the Directorate of Health Services, and now Chief Minister Pramod Sawant himself has now declared that he is now a Covid-19 asymtomatic patient but will quarantine himself at home.
AND a few stray thought on the Goa link to the Sushant Singh Rajput mystery death. It is now being alleged that a Tirumulai Trupati Co-operative Bank based in south Goa by one of the accused has been laundering money for the primary suspects in the Rajput case. The Narcotics Control Bureau which is exposing the links of drug mafia networks in Bollywood has reportedly arrested a driver Ahmad employed in a prominent Goa resort. Ahmad, a resident of Calangute, was reportedly intercepted with large quantities of a narcotic called BUD which is very popular in international drug trafficking.
And a last stray thoughts on an American Epidemiologist advising couples including married people not to kiss. The Epidemiologist has also advised that couples should wear mask even when they are having sex.