Le­gal ver­sus eth­i­cal right­eous­ness of Modi

The Free Press Journal - - EDIT -

Like any Hindi TV daily se­rial, the story of the high-level bu­reau­cracy in Delhi is be­com­ing murkier ev­ery day, and now, it stinks. So far we In­di­ans con­sid­ered agen­cies like CBI, CVC, Elec­tion Com­mis­sion above petty party-level pol­i­tics and free from any po­lit­i­cal im­pu­rity. How­ever, to our sur­prise, there is room for doubts about shame­ful nexus be­tween those who are at the helm of the af­fairs in the de­part­ments and agen­cies and those who are em­pow­ered to run the gov­ern­ment.

There are some se­ri­ous dif­fer­ences be­tween bu­reau­crats in the same or other de­part­ments and though such even­tu­al­i­ties should be con­sid­ered nat­u­ral, the fact that these high-level bu­reau­crats have started wash­ing their dirty linens of dif­fer­ences in pub­lic and the top-level politi­cians have shame­lessly ei­ther ig­nit­ing the fire or play­ing the role of silent spec­ta­tors, have messed up the things. The ob­vi­ous and un­for­tu­nate im­pact is on the en­tire low-rank bu­reau­cracy who don’t know what to do and from whom should they take or­ders.

CBI chief quits

In the near past, sacked CBI chief Alok Verma re­fused to take charge as chief of fire ser­vices on Fri­day and quit — a day af­ter he was re­moved as boss of the high-pro­file in­ves­ti­gat­ing agency by a panel led by Prime Min­is­ter Naren­dra Modi. The panel had trans­ferred him to the Fire Ser­vices as Di­rec­tor Gen­eral, af­ter de­cid­ing that as CBI chief, he had “not acted with the in­tegrity ex­pected of him.” This is a se­ri­ous charge that has the po­ten­tial to de­feat the ba­sic pur­pose of the for­ma­tion of the ‘in­de­pen­dent’ in­ves­ti­ga­tion agency. Alok Verma was to re­tire this month end. “Nat­u­ral jus­tice was scut­tled and the en­tire process was turned up­side down in en­sur­ing that the un­der­signed is re­moved from the post of the Di­rec­tor,” he said in a state­ment.

In a dra­matic turn of events, the headache of the CBI was sacked as CBI chief. In Oc­to­ber last, Verma had been sent on forced leave by the Naren­dra Modi gov­ern­ment in a mid­night swoop in which of­fi­cers of his team were trans­ferred and an in­terim di­rec­tor took over. In ob­vi­ous turn, Verma chal­lenged the de­ci­sion in the Supreme Court, ar­gu­ing that he had fixed two-year ten­ure and only the PM-led se­lec­tion panel could re­move him. The court can­celled the gov­ern­ment’s or­der but said the se­lec­tion panel must de­cide on his sta­tus, based on a vig­i­lance re­port on al­le­ga­tions of bribery raised by his num­ber two of­fi­cer, Rakesh Asthana. In the three-mem­ber panel, Jus­tice AK Sikri — nom­i­nated by the Chief Jus­tice of In­dia — voted with PM Modi for Verma’s re­moval. Congress’s Mal­likar­jun Kharge, rep­re­sent­ing the op­po­si­tion, put up a dis­sent­ing note say­ing that the vig­i­lance in­quiry had not found ev­i­dence that Mr Verma was guilty of bribery.

In an ob­vi­ous move, the op­po­si­tion ques­tioned and bit­terly crit­i­cised the process, won­der­ing why Verma was not al­lowed to present his case be­fore the panel. How­ever, de­fence from the trea­sury side is quite con­vinc­ing. Ac­cord­ing to the Gov­ern­ment, Verma had moved the Supreme Court against the Gov­ern­ment ac­tion to re­move him from the post. At that time, the Supreme Court had given him the op­por­tu­nity to put his side forth and prove his in­no­cence that Verma did through his af­fi­davit. The gov­ern­ment right­fully sub­mit­ted that since Verma had al­ready given his de­fense to the high­est court of the land, there was no ne­ces­sity to sum­mon him to de­fend him­self again. More­over, there is no prac­tice of record­ing ev­i­dences in the Se­lec­tion Com­mit­tee meet­ings so far. Thus, the gov­ern­ment seems to be within its right and prac­tice to trans­fer Verma from the CBI to an­other agency.

Stat­ing that he had an un­blem­ished record, Verma said: “The de­ci­sions made on Thurs­day will not just be a re­flec­tion on my func­tion­ing but will be­come a tes­ti­mony on how the CBI as an in­sti­tu­tion will be treated by any gov­ern­ment through the CVC (Cen­tral Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sion), who is ap­pointed by the ma­jor­ity mem­bers of the rul­ing gov­ern­ment. This is a mo­ment of col­lec­tive in­tro­spec­tion.

Since the gov­ern­ment’s un­prece­dented ac­tion comes just prior to the forth­com­ing Lok Sabha elec­tions due in April-May this year, it is bound to have di­rect and in­di­rect im­pact on the po­lit­i­cal arena and, in turn, on the minds of the elec­torate.

Flut­ters of bu­reau­cracy

Modi has been, of late, wit­ness­ing flut­ters in the bu­reau­cracy. Whether the res­ig­na­tions and ap­point­ments of Gov­er­nors of the Re­serve Bank of In­dia, Chief Vig­i­lance Com­mis­sioner (CVC), CBI or Gov­er­nors of States, Modi, al­legedly has brought in his ‘own men’ by re­mov­ing or hu­mil­i­at­ing those so far oc­cu­py­ing the po­si­tions. Though peo­ple in gen­eral are not so much both­ered about who oc­cu­pies these seats of power, these de­vel­op­ments do make im­pact on their life and that is likely to re­flect in the vot­ing pat­tern.

To sum up, Modi has taken care to be within his right and law-lim­i­ta­tions while tak­ing ac­tion against the top boss of the CBI, who was con­sid­ered to be his choice two years ago. It may be re­called that the Congress had bit­terly crit­i­cised Verma’s ap­point­ment. The same party is now ve­he­mently sup­port­ing Verma’s ar­gu­ment for ob­vi­ous rea­sons.

The ques­tion, how­ever, is that is it enough in po­lit­i­cal life to be legally cor­rect or you should be eth­i­cally cor­rect, too?

The writer is a po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst and for­mer Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment (RS).

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