Monday, June 8, 2009

Comrades, Leave the Governor Alone and Face the Corruption Case in Court

The decision of Kerala Governor R S Gavai to give green signal to the CBI for the prosecution of CPM state secretary and politburo member Pinarayi Vijayan in the SNC Lavalin corruption case has now raised a debate on the issue of the constitutional validity of the action of the governor. The CPM and some legal experts like Justice V R Krishna Iyer say that this is a clear violation of the principles of federalism enshrined in the Indian Constitution and hence violate the constitutional scheme of things.

I think the Constitution is not a dead and static body of legal cliche’s that can be used to defend any malpractices on the part of public persons. It has to be interpreted with the best interests of a society that seeks decent and responsible governance.

Here we will have to ask a few questions:

How did the cabinet recommendation reach the Governor that no permission be given for prosecution in the case? It was under external pressure. There is sufficient evidence that a party to the criminal conspiracy had been involved in it and hence the cabinet decision was not a normal, democratic and constitutional action. The Governor had to take a decision in the issue and prima facie he had every reason to believe that the cabinet recommendation and the AG's report on which it was purportedly based, were not proper because they were not taken without "fear or favour."

Was the Governor acting according to his own whims and fancies? It would be a wrong to think the Governor had any axe to grind here, because right from the beginning the case was not a politically motivated one: It was the constitutional bodies like the CAG that unearthed it and it was later the Kerala High Court which demanded the reluctant CBI to look Into the political aspects of the case.

My point is that the CPM's present position, attacking the Governor for overstepping his duties in our federal system, is specious. To my mind, the Governor had to take into view all players in our constitutional system, namely the judiciary and the people's verdict. The judiciary had been monitoring the case and hence it is bound to go back to the same judiciary for final adjudication. No amount of political pressure can be allowed to subvert the judicial process and rule of law. If that were the case, the Governor would have been accused of abdicating his role as the custodian of the Constitution.

Now about the people's verdict: There was no referendum on the issue of the trial in the recent elections, but the present verdict has in many ways expressed the people's resentment over the way the State is being governed. It also gave a clean chit to the Centre which runs the CBI and other agencies now being castigated as politically motivated agencies. Hence, no charge of political vendetta can stick and if any, the verdict can only be interpreted the other way round, as a verdict in favour of a trial .

And finally, do the Governors behave as they used to in the past, as viceroys of the Centre nowadays? There is no such case in recent past and remember no one dares to play with Art. 356 today, unlike the Indira and Rajiv days. Frankly, I feel this is no occasion to castigate the Governor as an agent of the centre. The CPM argument that Governor did play havoc with Constitution and federalism simply does not wash because he took the totality of the situation into view and decided in the best interests of the people whose money is involved here. In no way it can be construed as a subversion of our lofty constitutional principles. No amount of federalism can be a justification or an alibi for excusing the plunder of national resources by interested parties.

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