Tuesday, May 22, 2012

"Holes" in the SIT report

This article appeared in The Hoot and can be read here.

No sooner did the SIT’s closure report become public than Express News Service ofIndian Express and Vidya Subramaniam ofThe Hindu set out to puncture what they perceived as holes in the SIT report. Unfortunately, in their eagerness to be early birds, they don’t seem to have considered all aspects of the issues they are highlighting. What are their issues?

Preliminary Report vs. Closure report

The first of the Indian Express stories points to the inconsistencies in the statements of Narendra Modi and top bureaucrats between the Preliminary Report submitted by SIT in May 2010 and its closure report. Vidya Subramaniam also harps on this issue in her article on the “Many twists and turns of February 27, 2002.” This is at best a comparison between apples and oranges.

The Preliminary Report, as admitted by A K Malhotra of SIT who prepared the same, “was not an investigation contemplated by the Cr. P.C. The statements recorded during the enquiry, therefore, do not amount to statements u/s 161 Cr.P.C.” and the amicus curiae also mentions this in Para 3 of his Report whereas SIT’s Closure Report recorded statements of witnesses under the said section. What is the relevance of this section?

Sec 161 (2) makes it mandatory for a person to “answer truly all questions relating to such case put to him by such officer.” So the seriousness, which a witness may attach to a statement u/s 161 may be missing in a statement recorded otherwise. When A K Malhotra mentions in his report that some of the public servants claimed loss of memory, as they did not want to get involved in any controversy, one can understand that the bureaucrats might not have felt compelled to respond to the queries of Malhotra with full earnestness. Another instance, which substantiates this argument, is the fact that when Sanjiv Bhatt was questioned as to why he did not respond to SIT’s public notice calling for witnesses, he replied that he did not want to divulge the facts “unless he was under a legal obligation to do so” (page 33 of SIT report).

Thus, bureaucrats such as Swarnakanta Varma, Ashok Narayan, and P K Mishra, who were tentative as to Sanjiv Bhatt’s presence when answering Malhotra’s questions, were more “categorical” later when SIT questioned them for the Final Report-- a simple fact which Vidya subramaniam chooses to be sarcastic about. Also it can be seen from the SIT closure report that it tried to help the witnesses refresh their memory by showing the photographs of Sanjiv Bhatt and also by probing them further on each of the issues.

Another interesting fact, which the Indian Express story with the sarcastic title “Loss of memory in 2010; recall in 2012” chooses to ignore, is that loss of memory does not seem to be the exclusive privilege of bureaucrats. Zakia Jafri stated that when they were shifted from Gulabarga Society the irate mob would have lynched all of them but for the timely action by the police when her statement was recorded u/s 161 on 6.3.2002. However, she conveniently forgot to disclose this fact when she deposed before Nanavati Commission on 29.8.2003 (page 16 of SIT report). Similarly, Sanjiv Bhatt, who could not recollect on March 22, 2011 who accompanied him to the Chief Minister’s meeting, suddenly remembered them two days later and went to SIT voluntarily to record a further statement. In fact, while Bhatt is cursed with long periods of loss of memory, he seems to be also endowed with a remarkable recalling ability-- that he sent two faxes on 28.2.2002 (or 2.3.2002 as hinted by SIT) which he could not recollect when Sreekumar asked for such evidence in July, 2002, or while talking to A K Malhotra in 2010, or while giving a statement to SIT in March, 2011, he did in December, 2011, just within 9 years of sending them! It is a different matter that these faxes did not seem to have been received by the addressees.

The next discrepancy pointed out by Indian Express relates to Modi’s statement in the Legislative Assembly. While the Preliminary Report quotes Modi as having said “…govt. was considering a proposal for an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh…” the Final Report says Modi “announced an ex-gratia payment of Rs. 2 lakh…., ordered a high-level enquiry.” So the discrepancy seems to be “considering a proposal” as against an “announcement” in the final report; also the ordering of a high-level enquiry. One wonders whether these qualify as discrepancies at all! Even if they do, both the reports quote from Assembly records, and Indian Express could have done some research before writing the story.

By definition, a Final Report is much more profound than the Preliminary Report because some of the issues in the latter would have been taken up for further examination, additional witnesses would have been examined, and further documents would have been perused. One of the major events that took place between the two reports was the recording of Sanjiv Bhatt’s statement as suggested by Raju Ramachandran in his interim report. Sanjiv Bhatt’s numerous allegations had to be cross-verified with other witnesses and documentary evidence. Additional facts emerged out of this extensive probe, which were recorded in the Final Report. SIT’s closure report has not disputed the conclusions of the Preliminary Report on what Ramachandran calls “the most important allegation” viz. Modi’s alleged statement in the Law and Order meeting on February 27, 2002. In fact it has added additional evidence to support the conclusion.

Read further my article in The Hoot.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Defamation Express

The defamation notice sent by Indian Express and its journalists to Open Magazine and Vinod Mehta raises one important question: Why only against Vinod Mehta and Open?

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Can one's self defense not be perceived by another as provocation?

The SIT closure report on the Gulbarga Society massacre case records in the first page that a huge mob of 20,000 Hindus had assembled near Gulbarga Society on February 28, 2002 with the intention of damaging properties, shops and houses of Muslims as well as Mosque/ Madarsa and that late Ehsan Jafri fired from his private licensed weapon in self defense causing injuries to 15 persons.

Read further my post in The Hoot....

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Hindustan Times’ selective presentation

The final report of amicus curiae, Raju Ramachandran on the Gulbarga Society case was made public when the closure report of SIT was handed over to Ms. Zakia Jafri on May 7, 2012. While it was described variously as ‘setback’‘jolt’ for Modi, it is interesting to see how Hindustan Times misrepresented the views of amicus curiae while presenting ‘What Ramachandran Report says: Edited extracts of amicus curiae Raju Ramachandran’s observations on the findings of the SIT.’ The HT report lists the allegations one after another followed by the findings of the SIT and finally the observations of Raju Ramachandran on the same.

Read further my post in the Hoots Blog....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Selecting the President

In this era of coalition politics where the national parties do not have the requisite numbers in the collegium meant for electing the President and there is uncertainty over support from coalition partners, a new recipe is increasingly becoming popular for making the President of India- Drop a dozen names in the media; stir it with the conflicting views of the ruling alliance, the Opposition parties, and the intelligentsia; filter out the 7-8 which meet stiff resistance from all quarters; cook the remaining 4-5 in the whims of real senior leaders of parties; spice them up generously viz. he/she is apolitical, is from this/that caste, is from the hitherto unrepresented region, is this/that regional party’s favorite; finally serve the same in a platter to the ruling or the Opposition party so that it can discuss the names with ease with the alliance partners.

Why should media play this “facilitator” role? Why not allow the Congress and the BJP to talk to their allies and firm up their choices? Should the media transcend their putative limit as “commentators” to become “newsmakers”?

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Social media: not the only culprit

Though Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s associate got an injunction from the High Court, the CD, allegedly depicting him and a female lawyer in an inappropriate act surfaced in the social media- not just surfaced, as most of the media described it, it ‘went viral’.

Justice Katju condemned the irresponsible social mediaand wrote to Ms. Ambika Soni asking her ministry to take appropriate steps to restrain social media from indulging in such reprehensible acts in future.  "It is obvious that the adage 'be you ever are so high, the law is above you' does not apply to any social media," lamented Abhishek Singhvi.

Agreed. The social media uploaded the disputed CD, violated the High Court order and manifested its irresponsibility. But if the social media where control over content is in the hands of users/ viewers/readers at large is irresponsible, how did the mainstream media where a trained, ethical editorial team scrutinizes the content behave?

Monday, April 16, 2012

India will supply power to neighbours but not to its own State!

Pakistan will buy 500 MW of power from India, says an NDTV Profit news item. 500MW is the initial requirement; it can increase to 5,000 MW in the next 5 years! A team of Indian experts will discuss the terms and conditions of supply with Pakistan's Central Power Purchase Agency. Notice the speed at which this power trade is progressing-
  • In April, 2011 there were Secreatry level talks between India and Pakistan regarding power supply to Pakistan.
  • In October, 2011 the Group of Experts from both the countries considered the proposal for setting up a joint transmission infrastructure. The Hindu called it an extension of onion diplomacy!
  • Anand Sharma's Feb-12 visit to Pakistan with 150 member delegation gave further impetus to this.
  • Last week a Delhi Company offered power to Pakistan @ Rs. 7.50/ unit.
  • Though Pakistan found the price to be high, it still agreed in principle to buy.
  • World Bank will extend a loan for setting up the transmission line in six months.
Let us move on to another similar development.

NTPC to supply 250 MW to Bangladesh says an Economic Times report dated February 29, 2012. Power Purchase agreement between the countries has been inked. Transmission lines between the countries will be set up by July-13.

Now look at India's power situation. Though India is the fifth largest producer of power in the world, it also is one of the lasrgest power deficit countries. The Central Electricity Authority of India in its report of May-2011 projects a peaking shortage of 17,519 MW or 12.9% for 2011-12. While States like UP, Maharashtra, Bihar, J&K & MIzoram will have deficits in excess of 25%, Andhra, Tamilnadu, Punjab, West Bangal, etc will experience a deficit in excess of 15%. As a Mckinsey report puts it, blackouts and load shedding have artificially suppressed the demand. In other words, the demand-supply gap can be higher than that estimated by Central Electricity Auhtority.

Wikepedia's article on Electricity Sector in India puts the number of those who do not have electricity in India at 300 mill by December, 2011.

So that is the position of power situation in India. With such a delicate power balance, the UPA2 is very eager to supply electricity to Pakistan and Bangladesh! And look at the audacity of Pakistan which is a worse power shortage country whose generation has shrunk by 50% in recent years and which needs the Indian power desperately-
  • an official of the Pakistan's power ministry says that  his country needs to ascertain 'how much India is relying on electricity trade as New Delhi had abandoned the Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project, saying Pakistan is an unreliable partner' reports NDTV Profit! Looks like beggar can be a chooser!
  • Pakistan's 'The Nation' newspaper alleges that India built dams on Pakistani rivers in violation of Indus Water Treaty, generated power and succeeded in selling the same to Pakistan!
Some 'progressive' will immediately point out that India's installed capacity is 186 GW and these 500 MW and 250 MW do not constitute even 1% of the capacity, that this has to be seen in 'context', that it will open up trade ties with Pakistan, etc.

Let's see the 'context'. Let's contrast the above enthusiasm of the Indian Government to meet Pakistan/ Bangladesh's demands with what it has done to the demand of one of its States. Tamilnadu has been reeling under power shortage due to a callous DMK Government ignoring the sector for whole of its 5 year rule. The current deficit in Tamilnadu is estimated at 4000 MW. Jayalalitha, as soon as she assumed power in May, 2011 wrote the Prime Minister to allocate 1000 MW from the Central Pool. The same UPA Government which was ever ready to export power to Pakistan and Bangladesh, allocated just 100 MW, that too after many reminders and 9 months! Even the power it purchased from Gujarat and UP could not be used because of congestion in the transmission.

Now if 750 MW is less than 1% of India's installed capacity, so is 1000 MW. Why this hurry to supply power to Pakistan and Bangladesh? Is it just that a 'progressive' 'secular' media will hail this as a path breaking foreign policy initiative of UPA Government? Is the desire to be seen as 'secular' more important than satisfying the genuine demand of a State of India? Does a State, just because it is ruled by a party which is not part of ruling coalition becomes more alien than Pakistan?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012


(This is a true story of a close acquaintance. I have changed the names and professions of the characters and the location where the story took place.) 

“Leader of the opposition is summing up his party's position on the motion. He is the last speaker. After this, the Rajya Sabha members will vote on the motion……a historical motion indeed…..” The TV reporter was talking non-stop.

Poorani had been glued to the 24x7 news channel for the past one hour. Kalai Arasi, her elder daughter noticed the palpable tension in Poorani’s face. She took Poorani’s hand and gave a gentle press to signify psychological support.

The channel took a commercial break.

Poorani closed her eyes and reclined on the sofa. Tears rolled down her eyes.

March, 1980.

“Champagam Dorairajan…a Brahmin girl; married at a young age; brilliant in studies….was denied a seat in Medical College. Why? Because she was born in a Brahmin family. The communal G.O of the then Madras Government….” Poorani was arguing against reservations in the annual inter college debate.

“Exactly….she was born in a caste which had oppressed, which had kept the rest of India in its wraps for centuries…. exactly these considerations weighed with the law makers when they introduced Article 15 (4) to provide for reservation….if judges, who are far removed from masses, whose only claim is intellectual supremacy can indulge in parochial interpretation of the Constitution…..” Samudram, a student of the Madras Law College intervened and argued for reservation.

Though she was ready with Justice H R Khanna’s caution against the dangers of indiscriminate, liberal construction of the Constitution, she held back. She noticed the fire in his eyes. His hands were shaking in anger. He must have suffered humiliation. He must be a Dalit. She felt that the harsh reality in his argument far outweighed the academic perfection in hers.

He won the debate. She congratulated him.

“Did you lose the debate intentionally the other day?”  They had started meeting each other for the past one month.

“Yes and no” replied Poorani.

“What does that mean?”

“I had arguments to counter yours. But I did not put forward the same….”

“That means you lost deliberately….”

“No…even if I had put them forward, I would have lost before the force in your 

“Not at all…you are being too humble…..please tell me the truth …. Why did you lose….”He took her hand as he was talking.

“For this only….” She blushed.

His daughter was in love with a Dalit boy!

Kailasam could not stand that. Kailasam was not an orthodox Brahmin. But he was not that ‘liberal’, that ‘progressive’ as to agree for his daughter’s marriage with a Dalit boy.

Rajam rushed to him with a glass of water. Rajam’s hands trembled. She knew Poorani well. If she made up her mind once, she would not change. Did she not know that her decision would affect Janaki, her younger sister’s marriage prospects as well?

Poorani listened to their arguments patiently; politely answered all of them.

But she would not change her mind.

Samudram and Poorani married in the Registrar’s office. Kailasam and Rajam signed as reluctant witnesses.

They both started working in Adept Chambers, a leading law firm in Chennai.  

Samudram got a job as Government Pleader within a couple of years under the SC/ST quota.

“The chairman of the Rajya has adjourned the House for an hour. Thereafter the voting on the motion will take place….We promise to bring you all the action…..” shouted the TV reporter. Poorani went to the kitchen and prepared coffee for her and Kalai Arasi.

As she sipped, she plunged into the flashback again.

Janaki came and helped Poorani when she delivered the elder daughter. Frustrated with embarrassing questions from the prospective bridegrooms' side, Janaki decided to remain a spinster.

Samudram took the child to the Chief Minister who named her Kalai Arasi. For Kailasam and Rajam, Kalai Arasi was still Alamelu, the Brahmin name they had kept.

When Poorani delivered their second daughter a couple of years later, Samudram told her to quit her job.

Vaayya Samudram….vaa (Weclome, Samudram),” The Chief Minister threw his hand around Samudram’s shoulder and invited him. Poorani who had accompanied him to the party felt awkward.

The CM had thrown a party to celebrate the acquittal of his brother from a murder case the previous day. Samudram who led the prosecution team had sought his conviction and lost the case!

How could the CM welcome a prosecutor so happily who lost his government’s case!

“I am buying this bungalow,” said a jubilant Samudram while he took Poorani around the two storey building in Gandhi Nagar, Adayar the next day.

‘This bungalow would cost not less than Rs. 2 Crores. Barely 10 years into the job as Government Pleader, how did he manage to buy such a posh building?’ wondered Poorani.

Samudram’s name figured in the list of 5 new judges appointed to Madras High Court in 2002. Governor of the State and Chief Justice of Madras High Court had recommended his name.

Samudarm threw a grand party to celebrate his appointment. He invited the Chief Minister and other leading members of the ruling party which raised many eyebrows in the media.

Samudram purchased 2 acres of land in Perungudi in the name of Kalai Arasi.
The Tamilnadu Government allotted 22 acres of prime land at a throw away price to a trust run by Chief Minister’s son-in-law. A concerned NGO filed a PIL in the Madras High Court challenging the allotment.

A three member bench, of which Samudarm was one, dismissed the petition.

Samudram purchased another 5 acres of land in Sriperumpudur in his 2nd daughter’s name. A concerned Poorani tried to talk to him.

“Will you please shut up? Did I ask for your advice?” said an obviously irritated Samudram.

Where was the Samudram she had known in 1980s- the principled Samudram, the loving Samudram?

Poorani was ashamed to share her concern with her parents.

When a collegium duly constituted by the Chief Justice of India recommended his name for promotion to Supreme Court in 2008, all the hell broke.

A Civil Society group wrote to the Chief Justice and President alleging corruption on the part of Samudram and seeking his removal. Samudram countered that since he was a Dalit, he was being victimized by the higher caste Civil Society.

Very soon 62 members of the Rajya Sabha brought a motion to impeach him.

Samudram made a spirited argument in the Rajya Sabha in his defence.

“The Chairman has announced voting on the impeachment motion….members are casting their votes…..”

Poorani closed her eyes tightly. Losing the job may not affect them financially. But the ignominy of being booted out of office, that too first time in the history of the country through an impeachment motion…..

“For those viewers who joined us late, voting is in progress…. In another five minutes we will get the results…five more minutes of nail biting wait…..”

Poorani was waiting......