Sunday, February 12, 2012



After having fairly successfully defied the Army over the so-called Memogate affair, the elected Pakistani Executive headed by President Asif Ali Zardari has now chosen to defy the judiciary on the question of its refusal to write to the Swiss Government requesting it to re-open the investigation into some Swiss bank accounts allegedly belonging to Zardari and the late Benazir Bhutto.

2. The directive to write to the Swiss Government came from the Supreme Court headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury. The Executive could have easily written to the Swiss Government and avoided a confrontation with the judiciary. It was very unlikely that the Swiss Government would have re-opened the investigation. Once the Executive wrote this letter, there would have been no more grounds for the court to proceed against Prime Minister Yousef Raza Gilani on a charge of contempt of court.

3. Instead of choosing this easier option, the Executive has chosen the more difficult and complex option of refusing to write to the Swiss Government on the ground that Zardari as the President enjoyed immunity from investigation and prosecution.

4. Faced with a defiant Executive, a seven-member bench of the court, headed by the Chief Justice, has framed an indictment ( US expression ) or a charge-sheet ( a sub-continental expression inherited from the British) against Gilani on February 13,2012.What this means is that from being a man under investigation as he was till now, he has become an accused in a criminal prosecution, but he is not yet a convict. The question of his resignation from office and arrest would arise only if after the trial, the charge of contempt of court against him is held to have been proved and he is convicted.

5. At the pre-trial stage of framing of the charge-sheet, there was no scope for a compromise or flexibility in the judiciary’s handling of the case. The court had no other alternative but to charge-sheet and Gilani has no other alternative but to stand trial. The question of a possible Presidential pardon would arise only after conviction and not in the pre-conviction stage

6. The intriguing question is what accounts for the apparent confidence of the Executive that it can defy the Judiciary and still escape negative consequences. There are three plus points for the Executive--- firstly, the solidarity between Zardari and Gilani continues; secondly, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and its coalition allies remain united behind the Zardari-Gilani combine; and thirdly, there has been no public reaction against the Executive for defying the judiciary similar to what one saw against Pervez Musharraf when he defied the judiciary and had Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury dismissed.

7. Another important plus point is that Aitzaz Ahsan, the celebrated lawyer belonging to the PPP, who was in the forefront of the “Back Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury” movement formed by the public and the lawyers community, is now supporting the Executive against the judiciary and defending Gilani. He seems to have lost his influence with the Chief Justice, but it is likely that he still has a good equation with some other judges of the bench that would try Gilani.

8.If the trial goes ahead as expected, three alternative scenarios are possible:

(a). Scenario 1: A split develops in the Bench and a majority verdict convicting Gilani eludes it, thereby forcing a compromise.

(b).Scenario 2: The Bench remains united and reaches a majority, if not unanimous, verdict convicting Gilani who is then pardoned by Zardari.

( c ). Scenario 3: Gilani is convicted and chooses to resign and go to jail in order to highlight excessive judicial activism.

9. If Zardari does not exercise the right of presidential pardon and if Gilani chooses to go to jail, there will be a new phase of aggravated political uncertainty in Pakistan. ( 13-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )



Many TV channels, including the NDTV today, have held Town Hall style debates on the controversy relating to the date of birth of Gen.V.K.Singh, our Chief of the Army Staff (COAS).The facts of the case are well-known. It should not, therefore, be necessary for me to repeat them here. All that I need to underline is that Gen.Singh failed to get a directive from the Supreme Court before which he articulated his grievances through his lawyer because of its reluctance to intervene in the matter,
thereby making him withdraw his petition.

2.Many of us, in retrospect, will question the wisdom of his action in taking up the matter before the court instead of finding a face and honour-saving compromise in-house within the four walls of the Government. Gen.Singh was widely recognised as a General of very high integrity and professionalism who had distinguished himself in battles during his long career in the Army. Nobody---not even his detractors—questioned his fitness to command the Army and lead it in times of peace as well as war.

3. The case had no national security implications. Nor did it show the lack of wisdom of the present policy of choosing the COAS. In the civilian services above the rank of the Joint Secretary and in the Armed Forces above the rank of Majors-Gen and equivalent ranks, promotions are decided by merit and not by seniority. On the basis of the evaluation of the records and achievements a short panel of officers fit to hold the position is prepared and the seniormost in the panel is promoted. The selection passes through two stages. In the first stage, the merit is the sole criterion. In the second and final stage after merit has been evaluated and assessed, the seniority becomes the factor. Thus, Gen.Singh cleared the first hurdle of merit on the basis of his outstanding record and capabilities and the second stage on the basis of his seniority.

4. His wrongly-recorded date of birth became a factor not for judging his suitability for commanding the Army, but for deciding his date of superannuation and the date of completion of his tenure. He should have got the issue regarding his wrongly-recorded date of birth settled before he assumed charge as the COAS. Even if he had not done so, the Government should have done so anticipating an inconvenient and distasteful denouement. Neither he nor the Government did so.

5. When he raised the issue half-way through his tenure, it gave an opportunity to his ill-wishers in the Army and outside to impute motives, thereby giving rise to an avoidable controversy of unfortunate fall-out.

6. The entire case and his failure to make his grievance find endorsement by the Supreme Court must have been followed with great interest by the junior ranks of the armed forces, including thousands of jawans. It would have been the subject-matter of heated discussions right across the barracks, cantonments and stations of the Army. The junior ranks would have been particularly keen to see whether the Supreme Court followed a different yard-stick in the case of a General. From that point of view, the Supreme Court’s decision not to intervene in the matter has to be welcomed because it would convey a clear message to all in the Armed Forces that in the eyes of the Supreme Court in deciding such cases ranks of the petitioners do not matter. All are equal from the jawan up to the General in its eyes.

7. What next? The Supreme Court’s non-intervention in a substantive manner has not cast any blemish on the integrity and professionalism of Gen.Singh. But it does cast a blemish on his image in the eyes of his jawans and junior officers. Whenever he visits the Army establishments, his image before his men would be not only that of a capable and courageous General of great integrity, but also that of a General who failed to maintain his personal and official dignity by agitating his grievance regarding his date of birth before the highest judiciary of the land and failed to have his grievance accepted.

8. This would definitely devalue his image in the eyes of the jawans and junior officers. As a disciplined force they would not show it outside, but in their heart of hearts, Gen Singh would be a leader with diminished dignity of office. It would, therefore, be in the interest of the institution and his own interest that he honourably resigns as the COAS after facilitating the process for the selection of his successor. ( 13-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )



The allegations made against Narendra Modi, Chief Minister of Gujarat, in connection with some incidents of violence against Muslims during the communal disturbances of 2002 were quite serious. They amounted to charges of conscious inaction amounting to criminal complicity.

2. These allegations warranted thorough investigation by a body of professional investigators and follow-up action in the form of criminal prosecution if the allegations proved to be correct during the investigation.

3. Such a body was constituted by the judiciary through the setting-up of a Special Investigation Team (SIT) headed by R.K.Raghavan, former Director of the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI). Raghavan is a highly distinguished officer of the Indian Police Service (IPS) known for his professionalism, integrity, independence and objectivity.

4. He had been associated with many complex criminal investigations when he headed the CBI and continues to be associated with matters relating to the Police even after his retirement.

5. After a thorough and professional investigation lasting about two years, the SIT headed by him has reportedly concluded that its investigation did not unearth any evidence that could warrant the prosecution of Modi under any charge.

6. In other words, the allegations of criminal complicity against Modi stand disproved. The serious allegations against Modi were not pushed under the carpet. He was not exempted from facing the due process of the law in the nature of a criminal investigation. He was treated like any other citizen despite the high office held by him and subjected to a criminal investigation by a team of distinguished professionals.

7. When the SIT has cleared him of the charges levelled against him by some sections of the public---particularly from the Muslim community--- and by some human rights activists, fairness of criminal justice demands that the demonization campaign against him should be discontinued and the sword hanging over his head should be removed. He has been cleared honourably and not conditionally.

8. Instead of doing so, his political and non-Governmental detractors seem determined not to accept the conclusions of the SIT and to keep up the campaign of denigration and demonization against him by recycling the allegations which have already been enquired into and found unproven by the SIT.

9. It is no longer a case of the law taking its own course, but one of malicious witch-hunt against a political leader by his political opponents and by sections of the media and lawyers and others who are not well disposed towards him. Even after having failed to prove the charges before the SIT, they are determined to keep their vicious campaign alive for political reasons and not for reasons of natural justice.

10. Their ill-motivated attempts have to be deplored by all right-thinking persons, who should demand that the campaign of demonization should stop immediately. Modi has so far not allowed this campaign to negatively affect his administration of the State of Gujarat for the last 10 years. The State has made considerable progress under his leadership. This is acknowledged by independent-minded observers and even by persons who are not comfortable with him as an individual.

11. His future should be decided by the people not on the basis of the re-cycled unproven allegations of his demonisers, but on the basis of what he has already achieved as an administrator, his ideas and vision for the future and his capability for achieving them.

12. Those who still have reservations regarding his style of leadership and do not agree with those who praise his governance should confront him politically and establish before the people that his achievements and capabilities are over-rated if that is what they feel.

13. But his detractors and demonisers find themselves on a weak ground in respect of a political campaign against him based on objective factors. They are, therefore, trying to keep alive the demonization in the hope of thereby damaging and destroying his future political career. This has to be strongly deplored and I have no hesitation in doing so.

14. I have never been an uncritical admirer of Modi. Nor am I in the ranks of his perpetual demonisers. I have always sought to judge him as objectively as I can. It is my view that the demonization campaign against him must stop now. ( 12-2-12)

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai, and Associate of the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: Twitter : @SORBONNE75 )