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23RD MAY 2019 AND A NATION WAITING WITH BATED BREATH

P M Ravindran, raviforjustice@gmail.com

23rd May 2019- possibly it is the whole world waiting with bated breath- for
the results of General Elections in India to be announced. I am not a
psephologist but share the feel good factor that most of them have created by
predicting a definite victory for Narendradass Damodar Modi. His first term
has to be considered successful for merely applying brakes on a nation that
was fast sliding into an abyss of everything that a civilized society abhors.
While this in itself is laudable, the real positive change that has happened is in
the national pride that has been awakened. Physically, projects like Make in
India and the development of infrastructure in the areas of transportation are
the most visible. But then, as Robert Frost said ‘there are miles to go and miles
to go before one can go to sleep’, that is if ever one can go to sleep.

While demonetization and introduction of GST have reduced corruption to a


large extent, it cannot be said that the quality of government administration
and justice delivery has improved even marginally. One benchmark I use to
make this assertion is the response to applications and appeals under the Right
to Information Act. My Save Right to Information Campaign (see the Mission
Statement at the end of this article) has been succeeding only in exposing the
public servants rather than getting any information sought. This not being the
topic of this article, we will leave it here.

When one evaluates the performance of governments, I loath to think about


the lack of transparency and accountability in the functioning of each and
every institution. The worst, of course, is the judiciary followed by the
bureaucracy.

The recent events that shook the apex court highlight the urgent need to have
a National Judicial Accountability Commission with powers to try and punish
judge as per laws applicable to ordinary citizens but with twice the severity.
The allegation against the Chief Justice of India was legally a non-bailable
offence. If my memory serves me right it was the apex court that directed that
the accused need be arrested only if the allegation has been investigated by an
officer of the rank not less than an SP of Police. Maybe such an investigation in
the matter of an allegation against the CJI would have been futile. But then did
the court follow its own guidelines laid down in the Visakha verdict? No. The in
house committee that was required to investigate such allegations was headed
by Ms Indu Malhotra, a woman judge of the apex court who had attracted the
nation’s attention as the lone dissenter in the controversial Sabrimala
womens’ entry case. Not only was the matter not taken up by this committee
but even Ms Indu Malhotra was inducted into the three judge special bench
only after there was objection to one of the judges in the male dominated
bench constituted the first time. This was an action that could be easily
discerned as panic reaction. Suffice to say that the clean chit given to the Chief
Justice Gogoi by this special bench was not unexpected and has dealt another
death blow to the credibility of the judiciary in general and the apex court in
particular.

Another case to be mentioned here, at least in passing, is the number of times


P Chidambaram is being granted bail. Social media is rife with speculation
whether this will make it to Guinness’s Book of World Records for the number
of times an accused is granted bail.

The failures of the bureaucracy, even just in the context of the current
elections, will suffice to expose the fallacy of it being the steel frame of
government administration.

The number of cases of bogus voting in Kerala has been mind boggling. Video
clips from CCTVs installed in a few problematic booths have gone viral and
some of these violations have been confirmed by the State Electoral Officer.
But there is a video of a Marxist party member claiming that though a few
cases have been exposed due to the stupidity of the bogus voters who had
been adequately briefed earlier, there are many cases that will never be
detected. (This video, available at https://youtu.be/Z6Qqna43Cwg is in
Malayalam). The latest report confirms re-polling in 4 booths. A first time in
Kerala. Reminds me of booth capturing which was rampant in Bihar and Uttar
Pradesh in the 1970s and 80s. The video reports by Ms Nalini Singh are so vivid
in one’s memory.

One of the bogus voters, having been identified as a member of a local self
government body, the CEO had recommended her to be removed from office.
The State Election Commissioner has refused to do it. His arguments are
irrefutably ludicrous. He has reportedly stated that it could be done only if a
court has convicted the accused for misbehavior or impersonation and even
that should be reported to the Commission by a voter within the jurisdiction of
that local body or the secretary of that local body or an officer empowered by
the government for that purpose. It bedevils me to analyze whether it is the
laws that are dubious or the public servants administering them.

While the law is clear that private property can be used for campaigning by the
candidates only with the approval of the owner, come elections and both
public and private properties that are not occupied are treated like the
candidates’ own. Of course some of the walls of even occupied properties are
booked in advance, with or without the permission of the owners.

I have had the horror of finding the walls of the land adjoining my house
defaced by a candidate. (Please see ‘Elections: The dance of democracy or...’ at
http://www.vijayvaani.com/ArticleDisplay.aspx?aid=4996). The land being in
the names of my children, who are away, I had complained to all the
authorities- the District Electoral Officer, the Chief Electoral Officer of the State
and the Central Election Commission. The Central Election Commission had
responded with a perfunctory ‘your complaint has been forwarded to the
concerned authorities’ but there has been no response to the query seeking
the designation and address of these concerned authorities. Also a team,
under a Junior Superintendent, from the Revenue Divisional Office, had come
and made some inquiry but no formal communication has been received from
anybody so far.

As usual there have been reports in the media of defacing squads defacing the
defaced walls or removing unauthorized hoardings. But this is obviously not
even a miniscule of what is required. Even an RTI query on recovery of dues
from the candidates, for this symbolic effort by the anti defacing squads,
during the last General Elections, has not elicited any valid response.

The next cause of concern is the plethora of complaints of Model Code of


Conduct violations by the candidates, parties and their proxies. The most
important has been of the Congress President and Amethi candidate, Rahul
Ghandi, blatantly lying about the apex court indicting the PM, Narendra Modi,
in the Rafale fighterjet deal. Apparently, only the contempt of court issue had
been taken up by the petitioner and not the defamation of the PM who is also
a candidate. Though the court is yet to give its final decision on the petition, it
was astonishing that the court gave more than one opportunity to the
respondent to apologise. Though finally an apology has been tendered Rahul
himself has been going around declaring that it was only to the court.

Rahul got another slap on his face when Oxford Dictionary officials rebutted a
false claim by him (or his dirty tricks department) that there was a new word
introduced in the dictionary as ‘modilie’ (‘Oxford Dictionary calls Rahul
Gandhi's bluff on new word Modilie’ at
https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/lok-sabha-2019/story/oxford-dictionary-
rahul-gandhi-modilie-tweet-1526696-2019-05-16)

Violation of the MCC reached a new low with Rahul’s sister, Priyanka Vadra,
encouraging even children to repeat the lie ‘chowkidar chor hai’.

Whatever NaMo has done during his first term can mostly be considered as
setting the stage only. He has certainly done a good job in managing the
available resources with the rusted tools bequeathed to him. The fresh
mandate will certainly be for decisive steps to make institutions of governance
transparent, accountable, effective and efficient.

17 May 2019
Save Right to Information Campaign
Mission Statement
‘Save Right to information. Use Right to Information Act.
Get information or......expose at least three idiots/traitors* among public
servants!
1. The Public Information Officer,
2. The First Appellate Authority (and the head of public authority where the
head of the public authority is not the FAA!) and
3. The Information Commissioner

(* An idiot is one who does not know the job s/he is getting paid to do and a
traitor is one who knows it but does not do it!)