Posts Tagged ‘parliament’

July 22nd, 23rd.

24 July 2008

Party or Country.

Day before I had faulted the media for cleverly packaging views as news & then let these Trojans worm their way into the readers mind to silently take hold. Earlier much was read into the fact that both Left & BJP would find themselves opposing the confidence motion, which was offered as the touchstone for completing civilian nuclear cooperation deal with USA. Left had always opposed it. Newspaper pundits say BJP would have signed it if in government. But same pundits derived great malicious pleasure in wording headlines repeatedly as Left will vote with the BJP. Not once did I come across a headline that said BJP will vote with the Left. Voting with the BJP, though patently mischievous statement, they knew, would sound like a sacrilege for many Left-constituents and spread therefore much disquiet & doubt. Vote is either for or against a motion, never with. Had it been say that both Left & BJP were voting for this motion, then the same pundits would have cooed with delirium in the headlines that Left has shown great sagacity, Indian democracy has matured, Left is right, or some such nonsensical trivia. Mind you, I do respect the right of others to hold & propound views not to my liking, but I smell a diabolic design when views are presented in the guise of news.

I was to marshal this If Com. Karat was watching, Somnath didn’t let it show news headline as yet another ruse aimed at subverting news. But that was yesterday. Not any more. When I read todays headline CPM expels Somnath Chatterjee from party, I stared at it in disbelief & gasped for air. Committing a folly once may be overlooked as panicky enthusiasm or dogged strategy, but to persist with it even with the benefit of wise counsel & hindsight may only be called suicidally insane. Benefit of doubt may only be given if hordes were waiting to defy party discipline had Somanathda not been shown the door. Whichever way it is, country or ideology, CPI(M) is the looser. Partys constitution took precedence over Countrys constitution. Failure to successfully oppose a confidence motion may be a setback that can be overcome some day. But loosing the trust of people in the intentions & soundness of judgment of a leader or a party is an abiding tragedy.

Money Matters.

Anchors & panelists took a very dim view of three BJP MPs waving wads of heavy duty currency notes in the well of the house. Their misfortune at having to witness this catchy spectacle gushed out with eloquent sadness saddest moment, stigma to parliamentary tradition, nadir of democracy, dardanaak kshana, and what have you. When one has dirty linen to wash, where does one take it? Where else, but to where the water is. Say a Well. Honourable MPs did just that. They took it to the well of the house verily because their soiled honour, soiled by & soiled for parliament, could only be cleaned with constitutional water of the parliamentary Well. Everyone is aware, more or less, about the role money, & crime, play in our politics & public life. Imagine, four MPs convicted (they are not accused or under trials in jails) on serious charges of murder & intimidation being brought to Tihar in Delhi to exercise their parliamentary privilege when they had deprived other citizens of their fundamental rights to life & liberty given under the very constitution. Average Indian knows that even to realise her average rights she has to grease the state machinery on an average day. No one not facing the camera save the pundits on TV, I imagine, was even surprised by the turn of events. If at all, one watched with glee to see ill fate of common man calling at last on the sovereign august house. News of terrorist attack on parliament too was at that time received with much lamentation by many for not succeeding.

Supreme View.

Usually we like to believe that both the bribe giver & bribe taker are guilty. Bribe taker more so if the bribe is being paid under duress. Since everything that is lawfully done in India is ultimately done under our constitution, all the duties discharged right from the President to the lowest cog in the bureaucratic wheel are constitutional duties albeit not directly. So bribe taker & giver, when both willfully bend the law, they are really subverting the constitution in a generous interpretation of the term. Commonsense! One would say. Not so if a court is involved. Narasimha Rao survived a whole term, 5 years, in office through support of four JMM MPs, who were simply bought. Shibu Soren, their leader, was convicted for bribe taking & went to jail for some time. He was out shortly on an appeal filed in Supreme Court.

Law court is a place where words & sentences are skinned to their bare bones to see what if anything remains. “In a majority judgment of the Supreme Court (see Acquired Immunity Syndrome), the immunity from prosecution is given by one of the privileges of Parliament in article 105 (2) of the Constitution. Article 105 (2) states: “No Member of Parliament shall be liable to any proceedings in any court in respect of anything said or any vote given by him in Parliament.” The majority view is that a prosecution of an MP who takes bribes and votes in pursuance of the bribe is “in respect” of his vote in Parliament and so he cannot be prosecuted. It stated: “To enable members of Parliament to participate fearlessly in Parliament debates members need the wider protection of immunity against all civil and criminal proceedings that bear a nexus to their speech or vote.” Put simply, a bribe taker is taking bribe in the pursuit of voting in parliament according to the wishes of bribe giver & since vote takes place inside parliament he cannot be denied parliamentary immunity. Perverse it may seem, but there have been other courts that too had occasion to deliberate over similar issue. Notably one US judge reached same conclusion as majority view of our court, but he fortunately was in minority. I love skinning, but since I am faced here with worthies far beyond my ability, I consider prudence the better part of valour & choose not to engage. However, I believe, that the oath administered to MPs & Ministers contains words to effect, I would discharge duties without fear or favour……. I hold that voting in parliament is a duty (or is it a privilege? I may be forgiven.) of every MP. Even recording abstention is voting. If it is a duty, then can taking a bribe for casting a vote in a particular way be called acting without favour? Does failure to discharge duty deserve any immunity?