Monday, March 31, 2014

Narendra Modi’s Question to Sonia Gandhi on Italian Marines- Some Implications

Election campaigns are where the rhetoric rules. It is not necessary to take a critical view of campaign speeches of politicians. They exaggerate many things, to take the audience into their hands. However, when the person who speaks is as high as principal opposition party’s declared prime ministerial candidate, and involves country’s highest judiciary, it requires a closer look.

One of the speeches from Mr. Narendra Modi that calls for a deeper look is his question to Congress President Ms. Sonia Gandhi asking her to explain as to “who was it at whose behest the government in Delhi gave the marines a chance to go back to Italy” (Times of India).

Under Indian judicial system, it is not the political leadership but the jurisdictional court that decides the manner in which a trial is conducted.  The decision of respective courts in matter relating to custody, bail, and other terms that govern the trial and the accused individuals is final subject only to any appeal to higher courts. In the Italian marines’ case, the matter is pending before the Supreme Court of India. Being the highest court of the country, its decision are final and binding on all. It was the Supreme Court that decided to allow the Italian Marines to go home, to cast their votes in their general elections. Any concerned citizen can question the merits of that decision, but the decision is final and binding on all.

I am sure Narendra Modi must be knowing this basic feature of Indian judicial process. More so since, he has been facing legal proceedings involving some most gruesome accusations, for over a decade. Therefore, can we ignore this as a mere rhetoric of a politician? I am afraid, we cannot!

What Mr. Narendra Modi has done through this accusation is blaming the Supreme Court judges who arrived at this decision, of extraneous motives. If we take his insinuations at face value, then those judges have succumbed to the pressure or request of Ms. Sonia Gandhi! Attributing motives to judges while they are passing judgments is a serious charge and the person making it must be willing to substantiate his charges.

Attributing motives to Ms. Sonia Gandhi in this case may amount to a defamatory statement. Accusing Ms. Sonia Gandhi of interfering in a murder trial, to save two mariners who are from the country of her birth can also go against fair practices of election.  However, these are matters for Ms. Gandhi and Congress Party to look into.

Much more sinister is yet another implication of Mr. Modi’s statement. Does our future Prime Minister consider India’s judicial process to be amenable to political leaders’ interference?  Does he think political leaders (even if it is Sonia Gandhi) can make judges of Supreme Court pass orders, as per their wishes? There were many allegations in the past where Mr. Modi and his government were accused of doing precisely the same in matters involving 2002 riot cases and lower judiciary. This has even led to shifting of the trial of some cases, out of the state of Gujarat, on orders of the apex court. Can Mr. Modi’s statement be seen as an admission of such incidences of interference?

Last but not the least, can we argue that Mr. Modi did not mean any of these things when he spoke? Then the question arises, whether we want a person who doesn't consider the implications before saying something, as our Prime Minister? How will it impact our polity and our relationship with other countries?

I will be very much concerned if the Prime Minister of my country (current or probable) thinks he, or another political leader, or even a government can influence decisions of the Supreme Court. Is it an indication of what to expect, if and when Mr. Modi becomes Prime Minister of India?  I leave it the voters of this country, to ponder!

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