Home Minister Mr. SK Shinde told media that he could not comment on the alleged terror links of Ishrat Jahan because investigations were not complete. The Minister’s need to comment on this aspect indicates how this controversy has acquired centre stage in what the CBI alleged was a cold blooded murder termed in popular parlance as a fake encounter.
The entire debate on this encounter is so vitiated and distorted that it exposes the deep sickness in our democratic system. Politicians and media are raving over Ishrat’s alleged terror links and refusing to focus on cold blooded murders of alleged terrorists. There is no dearth of members in the public who strenuously argue that fake encounters provide the only practical way of fighting terrorism. If we have sunk as low as to openly state that observance of law and procedure is irrelevant in our society does it not indicate a very serious crisis in our democratic system? It does, but people seem not to have a remedy. That is why like headless chickens they scamper from one side to another, searching for a magical Lokpal or a messiah.
There is a solution and I have repeatedly iterated it. We have distorted the Constitution by relegating the role of the President to that of a powerless ceremonial office which negates the explicit provisions of the Constitution. The President of India is like a Super Lokpal entrusted with the responsibility of ensuring that all the laws of the land are observed. To discharge this responsibility the President can override any Prime Minister or Cabinet. The Constitution was misinterpreted from day one and until this is rectified there will be no political reform or adequate governance. Successive Presidents must share responsibility for this distortion. They ignore the explicit Constitutional responsibilities which they solemnly take oath to discharge but which they never do. Had successive Presidents discharged their responsibilities our flawed and distorted understanding of democracy would not have spread among the public.
The distorted approach to the Ishrat Jahan case among politicians, media and the public might not have prevailed had former President Pratibha Patil acted on the demand I made in a letter written to her on December 2007 which I also made public. I reproduce that letter which is self explanatory and invite readers to judge for themselves.
Full text of the letter to the President of India:
Smt Pratibha Patil
President of India
New Delhi – 110001
I respectfully draw your kind attention to a matter of grave national importance that requires your urgent intervention. Addressing an election rally in Gujarat on December 4, 2007 Chief Minister Narendra Modi reportedly said: “Congress in Gujarat is raising its voice on the Sohrabuddin issue. But it should explain to the people what should be done to a man who stored illegal arms and ammunition. You tell me what should have been done to Sohrabuddin?”
Voices in the crowd reportedly shouted: “Kill him, kill him!”
Modi reportedly said: “Well, that is it. Do I have to take Sonia Gandhi’s permission to do this? Hang me if I have done anything wrong.”
It might be recalled that Sohrabuddin was killed by the police, allegedly in a fake encounter. The Chief Minister by his remarks clearly indicated that he had initiated and endorsed the killing perpetrated by the police.
Madam President, this goes far beyond the license ordinarily permitted in election campaign speeches. These remarks amount to brazen acknowledgment and justification for the government itself violating due process of law even if that entails cold blooded murder.
What lessons would citizens draw if such official conduct is allowed unchecked? If the government itself sanctions deliberate violation of law and murder as instruments of state policy, on what grounds should citizens condemn jihaadi and ideological terrorists who justify violence by invoking their own vision of creating a different India?
Madam President, the solemn oath you undertook on assuming office enjoined upon you to the best of your ability to “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and law”.
Article 78 (b) of the Constitution directs the Prime Minister to “furnish such information relating to the administration of the affairs of the Union and proposals for legislation as the President may call for.”
I humbly submit that it is your responsibility to exercise the discretion that devolves upon your office under the above portions of the Constitution to intervene in this matter and direct the union government to take appropriate steps to ensure that the laws of the land are upheld.
Failing this, the common citizens of India will draw their own conclusions about how terrorism and political violence should be viewed by them.
Dr Manmohan Singh
7 Race Course Road
New Delhi – 110001
Needless to say neither the President nor the Prime Minister responded. Nor did the jurists or the media commentators take up the issue. Now it is payback time. In the days ahead there could be much more to pay by our nation.