Yet Another Gandhi, Varun: Rise Of A Fixer.

In March Tehelka had done a well researched story on how Sanjay Dutt was treated with kid gloves by a system, which punished others with lesser crimes harshly. Ashish Khetan and Harinder Baweja traced how the dragnet of stringent Terrorist And Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act’s (TADA) provisions were let loose for Dutt to escape while tightened to ensnare others against whom there was less damning evidence. The story exemplified the “systemic bias” towards powerful, rich and the famous. Celebrities have it good when they transgress laws as Salman Khan’s 1998 Black Buck poaching case and 2002 drunk and rash driving case have demonstrated by dragging on for so long without an end in sight. If these cases showed that justice is two faced, then the latest sting operation by Tehelka exposes that entire judicial process can be completely subverted or managed. In a sort of “world’s first”, Tehelka says all the 88 prosecution witnesses turned “hostile” in the three cases filed against Varun Gandhi for making “hate speeches”, “rioting” and “vandalising” in the run up to 2009 general elections. See Rahul Kotiyal and Atul Chaurasia’s expose, “How Varun Gandhi Silenced the System“. The title is somewhat a misnomer since System was in no great hurry to speak out. System “willingly” cooperated in Gandhi’s shenanigans when it was merely winked at. 
If it appears to be a rare aberration, then it would be a grave mistake. In fact, it is an index case of how system functions “normally”, and not “unusually”. “The subversion of justice has been so blatant that all 88 witnesses in the cases have turned hostile. This is perhaps unprecedented in any criminal case in the world. Many of these witnesses have been caught on TEHELKA’s hidden cameras admitting they were coerced or bribed into changing their testimonies. They speak of how Pilibhit Superintendent of Police Amit Verma and other police officers threatened witnesses. In one instance, a witness claims he received a call directly from Varun’s office. The witnesses also speak of how the judicial process was turned completely on its head; how their testimonies were taken in the absence of the judge; how their statements were crafted by the lawyers and their thumb impressions or signatures taken; of how they were not cross-examined, often not even summoned to present their testimonies“. The graphic account in Tehelka story is worth following despite its length including at least some candid “testimonies” caught on hidden camera.
Gandhi’s mother is the “famous” animal rights crusader, Maneka Gandhi, who has also been BJP member of parliament in the past. She, who avowedly cares for Animals, apparently doesn’t even “value” human-animals, if they don’t profess the right religion. “As soon as Varun was arrested, his mother Maneka took command of his communal electoral campaign. On 28 March (2009), she went to the district hospital to meet the injured and held a Muslim inspector to be responsible for the fracas. She said, “Around 45 injured people have been admitted to the hospital. Of these, 25 have been injured by a single police inspector whose name is Pervez Miyan.” Apparently this inspector was not even present when the incident took place and was posted about 20 km away at Barkhera“. Tehelka caught BJP’s District Vice-President, Pilibhit, Parmeshwari Dayal Gangwar on hidden camera where he bragged about Gandhi’s “influence” and how the witnesses were “managed” through all means foul.
In another clip one of the witnesses says, जब शासन और प्रशासन नही चाहते है, तो भले क्या जनता बेवकूफ है कि जेब्से रोटी खाके कोर्ट-कचेरीकी सीडीया घीसाते रहे (when politicians and administration don’t want case to continue, won’t it be foolish for people -i.e. witnesses- to get mixed up in the matter?). 
The way the political class closes its ranks to shield one of its own on a strictly quid pro quo basis is another lesson in its crass opportunism and utter disdain for probity. Mulayam Singh Yadav, the supreme leader of Samajvadi party, had earned a moniker, Mullah Mulayam, from Varun Gandhi’s Bhartiya Janata Party, for former’s alleged policy of appeasing Muslims. Yadav likes to flaunt his secular credentials and proudly hails his association with Muslim community. However, he and his party are not averse to cut deals with the so called “communal forces” for mutual benefit. “Before delving into how Varun got himself acquitted by the court, there is first the story of the political collusion between him and the SP. While she was chief minister, Mayawati had slapped a draconian NSA (National Security Act) case against Varun. But the SP’s victory proved very useful. In October last year, several newspapers in Uttar Pradesh reported that the Akhilesh Yadav government wanted to drop the cases filed against Varun. When this became public, many Muslim organisations and Syed Ahmed Bukhari, the Shahi Imam of Delhi’s Jama Masjid, protested strongly. Afraid of alienating its voter base, the SP government finally did not drop the cases against Varun but fast-tracked them“. “Fast-Tracking” proved in retrospect to be a far better policy than “withdrawing cases”, which would have smacked of deal-cutting. Court may have created hurdles in dropping charges. Varun Gandhi would have got away but stigma would have remained. Now he is covered in the glory of exoneration by the court of law -acquitted for “lack of any evidence” to substantiate the charges. The strategy would have been to not only fast-track that was necessary to create a clean slate for general elections due in less than a year, but also to “fast-derail” the judicial process to get a “desired verdict”- not guilty. A primer in fast-tracking: “Ashwani Agnihotri, the former president of the Pilibhit District Bar Association, says, “I have been practicing in Pilibhit for several years. I have never seen a case where as many testimonies were taken in a single day as in Varun’s case“. The quid pro quo: “Why was the SP government so favourably inclined towards Varun? TEHELKA’s investigation found Varun — the general secretary the BJP is counting on to bring it back to glory days in Uttar Pradesh — played an important role in defeating his party candidate Satpal Gangwar in the 2012 Assembly election so that the SP candidate Riyaz Ahmed could win in Pilibhit. (Ahmed is currently the Khadi and Village Industries Minister in Akhilesh Yadav’s government as well as the state president of the SP’s minority cell.)“. The Derailing: “The SP (Superintendent of Police) used to call them over. There was one witness… the SP called him over and said, are you literate? He said he had done his PhD. He was a literate person. The SP asked him what his pay was; he said 25,000. The SP said, you must have got a good bride. He said, yes. The SP asked him if he loved his wife; he said yes. The SP said, you want to continue loving her or stop loving her? Then go and think about what you have to say in the court. You want to go back home or not? This is how it happened“.
The charge of making “hate speeches” and causing “enmity among communities” against Varun Gandhi was upheld by the Election Commission while admitting the Video-CD of his rally at Barkheda that was submitted by his rival candidate, V M Singh: “The commission has seen the CD, not once but several times repeatedly, and is fully convinced and satisfied that the CD has not been tampered with, doctored or morphed as alleged by the respondent.” While admitting its inability to debar Varun from contesting the election till he was found guilty by a “competent court of law”, the Election Commission also observed, “in the considered opinion of the commission, the respondent doesn’t deserve to be a candidate in the present General Election…”“. Can the indictment get any “better”? Why couldn’t the trial court consider the same CD as evidence to proceed with the case when all the 88 prosecution witnesses turned hostile in an unprecedented situation? Shouldn’t the presiding judge taken judicial note of this unusual fact (Indian Evidence Act, Chapter III, S-56) and ordered investigation? True, that in Delhi Rape Case (the most publicised), Supreme Court overturned Delhi High Court’s order to trial court to admit “TV Interview” of diseased victim’s friend and eyewitness to gruesome crime as evidence, which was demanded by one of the accused. SC verdict it seems revolved on the fact thatthe High Court had allowed the interview to be used as a previous statement though the said interview was recorded after the statement of the complainant (an eyewitness to the crime) was recorded under Section 164 Cr.PC., investigation concluded and a charge sheet was filed“. The trial court had refused the plea ruling the CD wasn’t an admissible piece of evidence. The HC had later overruled this direction. When “electronic evidence” is admissible according to Evidence Act, why there is a bar on Video-Audio evidence needs to be debated and settled. Suppose some additional facts having bearing on the trial come to light after statements of complainants/ witnesses are recorded or charge sheet filed, would they still be inadmissible as evidence? Especially, if such facts have the potential to materially affect the course of the trial?

Consider the “farce”, the Rajya Sabha (Council of States) is about to enact –RS ethics panel to take up issue of MPs employing relatives as PAs– in the backdrop of above perversion of the laws of the land and judicial process. ““This practice is ethically incorrect,” said Yadav. “The provision envisages employing people with secretarial skills, certainly not relatives. Employing relatives is wrong… Parties should impose a code against this practice, and consider promoting party workers to these jobs,”“. Talk of Ethics?, or Pure Hogwash?
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