People were happy about the introduction of the much awaited Lokpal legislation in the Lok Sabha. Alas the happiness was short lived. The passage of the Bill witnessed acrimonious exchanges between Kapil Sibal and Sushma Swaraj. The general level of the debate was disappointing. An exception was the Prime Ministers speech in which he observed that rampant distrust of all authority imperils the foundations of democracy. He warned that we should not create something which will destroy all that we cherish and reminded us of Robert Lynds quip that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. Government had the numbers and so the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha.
The drama began in the Rajya Sabha. The leader of the Opposition,Arun Jaitley,made a spirited attack on the Bill which was stoutly countered by Abhishek Manu Singhvi,the Chairman of the Standing Committee. Thereafter the debate dragged on lacklustre. Several members spoke,some of whom were off the mark. Then dawned the realisation that the Bill with several amendments will not be put to vote before the midnight of 28th December which was thought to be the inflexible deadline. Opposition members insisted that the session should go on beyond midnight whereas UPA members maintained that was impermissible. There were angry protests by the Opposition. In the ensuing dim,the Chair declared that he had no option but to adjourn the House sine die. And then began the blame game. Arun Jaitley said the ruckus was choreographed by the government to prevent voting because the numbers were against it. The government accused the BJP of sabotaging the Bill. In the end,the nations desire for a strong Lokpal has gone with the wind. What started with a bang ended with a whimper.
Unsuccessful Russian Ban on the Gita
Censorship is intrinsically mindless. It confers power in a realm where qualifications for the exercise of power and tests for its application,from the very nature of things are virtually non-existent. During the Gulf war,radio executives drew up a list of 67 popular records they considered unsuitable for broadcast including John Lennons song,Give Peace a Chance.
A recent absurd instance is the attempt in Russia to ban a translation of the Bhagavad Gita on the ground that it sowed seeds of social hatred and called for violence against non-believers. The Siberian District Court in Tomsk dismissed the case. It held that there were no grounds for branding the translated Bhagavad Gita as extremist literature because the book was one of the interpretations of the sacred Hindu scriptures. Dismissal of the case was welcomed by Russias Human Rights Ombudsman who urged the Russian government to fight terrorism by exposing terrorist plots and outfits and not to pass judgment on ancient sacred scriptures. Our Ministry of External Affairs lauded the judgment as a sensible resolution of a sensitive issue.
New Year Resolutions
Despite Robert Lynds ominous warning that the road to hell is paved with good intentions,I shall make new year resolutions: An updated anthology of my favourite poems in which some Shakespeares sonnets and parts of T S Eliots Four Quartets will occupy pride of place. Next an anthology of essays ranging from Addison Lamb and Hazlitt to GK Chesterton and the almost forgotten AG Gardiner of the Alpha of the Plough series. Next on my list is an anthology of letters which will undoubtedly include Samuel Johnsons sarcastic letter to the Earl of Chesterfield and also Tagores letter to CF Andrews which has the famous lines: I have seen the West; I cover not the unholy feast in which she revels every moment. Not for us is this mad orgy of midnight,with lighted torches,but awakenment in the serene light of the morning. Then,of course,an anthology of jazz performances. Goodman,Lester Young and John Coltrane are a must. And then,but hold it. My family and friends anxiously want to know whether I have given up legal practice. I have not made any resolution about that so far in the New Year.
- The Limits Of Freedom
Sedition law has been misused by over-zealous agencies. That’s no reason to scrap it..
- When a PM gave me counsel
And other memories starring leaders and lawyers ..
- Be intolerant of intolerance
Why the Supreme Court judgment in the case of ‘An Insignificant Man’ shows the way...