FB   
 
Powered bysps
        Society for Policy Studies
 
 

 
Truth, without fear or favour
Posted:Sep 6, 2017
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 
By Rajmohan Gandhi 
 
 
Identifying and capturing the Gauri Lankeshkillers, including those who ordered her execution-style assassination, is the responsibility of the Union government as well. Asking the Karnataka government for a report on the killing does not begin to discharge that responsibility. The eerie similarity of the killing with the unsolved murders of M.M. Kalburgi, Govind Pansare and Narayan Dabholkar points to more than one state. In any case, it is the central government that must lead the fight to protect what these killings have violated: The rights to life, belief and expression. The nation is watching.
 
 
The Indian state is more than parliament, legislatures and ministries. Three recent events, occurring in rapid succession, encouraged the belief that individual rights have defenders in parts of the state’s structure. First the Election Commission, ignoring high-level pressure, applied precedents and the law to decide the Ahmed Patel/Rajya Sabha question. Next, the Supreme Court, with rare unanimity, gave a momentous judgment declaring privacy a fundamental right. This was followed by the Reserve Bank releasing numbers that seemed to prove demonetisation’s failure. It was an acknowledgment of the public’s right to know the facts.
 
 
For the citizen, this sequence provided a much-needed reminder that the Indian state is more than its legislative branch, even when that branch obtains the support, willing or otherwise, of much of the fourth estate: The media. We saw proof that the executive and the judiciary, which are the second and third branches of state power, can come to the citizen’s defence. Historically, the United States has relied greatly on checks and balances. Senator John McCain, the Republican who ran for president against Barack Obama in 2008, reinforced this tradition when he wrote in the Washington Post on September 31:
 
 
“We must respect [President Donald Trump’s] authority and constitutional responsibilities. We must, where we can, cooperate with him. But we are not his subordinates. We don’t answer to him. “We answer to the American people. We must be diligent in discharging our responsibility to serve as a check on his power. And we should value our identity as members of Congress more than our partisan affiliation.” India’s judges, election commissioners, Reserve Bank officers, tax officers, police officers and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s cabinet colleagues answer, likewise, to the Indian people, to the law and the Constitution. They are not servants of a party or an individual.
 
 
Although independent India’s record on the primacy of law over office-holders is mixed, we have some powerful examples. Two years after freedom, in October 1949, when a prominent Constituent Assembly member and future Lok Sabha speaker, Ananthasayanam Ayyangar, opposed the constitutional provision that restricted the power of politicians to punish civil servants, Sardar Patel, the home minister, stoutly defended the provision. Added the Sardar:“Today my secretary can write a note opposed to my views. I have given that freedom to all my secretaries. I have told them: ‘If you do not give your honest opinion, then please you had better go.’” Patel went on to tell the MPs: “Do not take a lathi and say, ‘We are a supreme parliament.’” (on 10.10. 49; vol. 3, Patel Centenary Volumes, pp. 122-30) Encouraging officers to be frank with ministers, the Sardar in the same breath asked MPs and ministers not to think that the level on which they found themselves was higher than that of judges, officers and citizens.
 
 
Protocol certainly has its hierarchies. Offices carry their authority. High office demands respect. But the separation of powers, the rule of law, and the equal value of human beings are fundamental principles of the Indian state, even if what we often run into in real life are their opposites. Which makes it all the more important for us to welcome occasions when officers and judges demonstrate loyalty to the Constitution and respect for the fundamental rights of citizens. It is not easy for a civil servant or judge to dismiss thoughts of consequences. While writing his famous dissent during the Emergency, Justice Hans Raj Khanna knew he was closing his path to the summit.
 
 
The frank opinion that Patel demanded was not easy to offer in 1949 and is not easy to provide today. A civil servant takes a risk when he or she points out a proposed step’s flaws. Frankness is not all that easy in the private sector either, or in the NGO world, or even in family conversations. Even in the noble years of the freedom movement frankness could exact a price. Acharya Kripalani once related to me a conversation he had had with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya, when a young Kripalani was working as secretary to the Pandit, who was older by 27 years. The great triple “M”’, who among other things was a renowned orator in both Hindi and English, had just delivered a speech in the imperial assembly. “How was my speech?” he asked Kripalani. “A little too long,” Kripalani said. “Malaviyaji didn’t like my reply,” Kripalani told me. In that instance, the price of frankness was small.
 
 
In other situations, lack of frankness causes deaths of babies in a hospital, or the failure to catch culprits in acts of violence, the escalation of a riot, or a boost to intolerance. Frankness, the truth without fear or favour, is what many oaths of office require. What death sentences or new laws may not accomplish can be realised through timely frankness inside police stations, hospitals and government offices. Or when legislators and ministers meet behind closed doors.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Print
Share
  
increase Font size decrease Font size
 

Disclaimer: South Asia Monitor does not accept responsibility for the views or ideology expressed in any article, signed or unsigned, which appears on its site. What it does accept is responsibility for giving it a chance to appear and enter the public discourse.
Comments (Total Comments 0) Post Comments Post Comment
Review
 
 
 
 
spotlight image Ties between India and Japan are probably at their best ever, Japanese Ambassador to India H.E. Kenji Hiramatsu told India Review & Analysis’ Nilova Roy Chaudhury, as he outlined how the two countries have moved closer. Ahead of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s visit
 
read-more
India will on September 26 dispatch around 900 tonnes of relief material for Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh which is being loaded on to Indian Naval Ship Gharial at Kakinada port in Andhra Pradesh.
 
read-more
That regional cooperation in South Asia is lower than optimal levels is well accepted. It is usually ascribed to – the asymmetry in size between India and the rest, conflicts and historical political tensions, a trust deficit, limited transport connectivity, and onerous logistics, among many other factors.
 
read-more
Reflections on September evoke a host of memories.
 
read-more
  During the budget session of the legislative assembly, the Chief Minister informed the  House about state’s missing children. According to her, as many as 162 children have gone missing in the past three years.
 
read-more
The Communist Party of China (CPC) is expected to amend its constitution at the upcoming national congress.
 
read-more
An atmospheric test by Pyongyang  would ensure that North Korea could become a pariah state for the rest of Kim Jong-Un’s lifetime...However, their technologies in terms of making nuclear and thermonuclear bombs and rocketry that was acquired from late Pakistani scientist A Q Khan network and the Chinese/Soviet sources merit
 
read-more
The apprehension was justified. US President Donald Trump’s disregard for institutions and fondness for reckless rhetoric meant that his maiden appearance at the annual UN General Assembly was a closely watched affair.
 
read-more
It is a privilege to be invited to this most prestigious of law schools in the country, more so for someone not formally lettered in the discipline of law. I thank the Director and the faculty for this honour.
 
read-more
Column-image

Title: A Bonsai Tree; Author: Narendra Luther; Publisher: Niyogi Books; Pages: 227 Many books have been written on India's partition but here is a firsthand account of the horror by a migrant from what is now Pakistan, who ...

 
Column-image

As talk of war and violence -- all that Mahatma Gandhi stood against -- gains prominence across the world, a Gandhian scholar has urged that the teachings of the apostle of non-violence be taken to the classroom.

 
Column-image

Interview with Hudson Institute’s Aparna Pande, whose book From Chanakya to Modi: Evolution of India’s Foreign Policy, was released on June 17.

 
Column-image

This is the continuing amazing spiritual journey of a Muslim man from Kerala who plunged into Vedic religion after a chance encounter with a Hindu mystic under a jackfruit tree in the backyard of his house when he was just nine. It is a story w...

 
Column-image

History is told by the victors but in our modern age, even contemporary events get - or are given - a slant, where some contributors soon get eclipsed from the narrative or their images tarnished.

 
Subscribe to our newsletter
Archive