Volume - 8 : Issue - 1

Published : Jan. - Mar. 2009

Group : Issues


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By Ram Jethmalani

The Nation is getting ready to elect a new Parliament. It is by no means amused by the antics of the current occupants, whether on the Government benches, or belonging to the opposition, or even independents. Except for a few honourable exceptions, politicians are held in contempt. The chances are that most of the current herd will face an ignominious defeat. Parliament will doubtless have a new look. Will it be pleasing or even uglier than before remains a troublesome question. No one should venture a prediction.

Surveying the political scene, I do not see any possibility of any principled coalitions or electoral alliances. All the ones being negotiated or planned have no discernible ideological rationale, nor any public weal in view. Naked and sordid pursuit of power appears to be the sole motivation. Mortal enemies seem to be shaking hands, and allies till yesterday are ready to stab and destroy one another.

This is a draft manifesto of a party that exists only in the imagination of a few likeminded citizens. Their only qualification is that they are not in the power game, but want to live in a better India, and whose management is in credible and competent hands. A party or coalition that swears by this manifesto may never be born, but at least the voter will find in it some useful advice who to vote for. Naturally, we first turn to foreign affairs.

India is now facing a totally new world order which hardly bears any resemblance to that which our First Prime Minister encountered. Communism has proved to be a total failure and both Russia and China are Communist only in name. Both have switched over to the free market, and Russia even pretends to some kind of political democracy. The United States has emerged as the only military superpower. Globalization has made obsolete, many economic Shibboleths, and conventional trade tariffs have fallen by the wayside. The current rulers, by and large have no expertise for surviving in this totally unfamiliar milieu. But the Constitution makers have left, for all succeeding generations, a compulsory lesson about how our foreign policy should be conducted. The lesson is written in the fifty first Article which reads as under:- India shall:

(a)     promote international peace and security;

(b)     maintain just and honourable relations between nations;

(c)     foster respect for international law and treaty obligations in the dealings of organized peoples with one another; and

(d)     encourage settlement of international disputes by arbitration.

Our commitment to World peace and security is a constitutional obligation. Maintaining just and honourable relations between nations and fostering respect for International Law or encouraging settlement of disputes by peaceful arbitration are just corollaries from this grand theorem.

Thirty years research has shown that democracies do not easily go to war. The horrendous consequences of war fall heavy upon the citizens in their character of soldiers as well as tax payers.

Modern International Law has created an elaborate system of human rights. Starting with the Declaration of 1948, the effort has culminated in the two elaborate Covenants of 1966. The Governments, which do not practice rigorous democracy cannot pretend to be upholding human rights. With all its faults and failures, India has a vibrant democracy and we have to promote the spread of democracy in all parts of the globe. It was a proud moment for India when Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and President George Bush entered into a partnership for furthering democracy and conferring its benefits on all those willing to imbibe or absorb them. In its conduct of foreign relations this shall be the basic agenda of the new Indian government. It also follows that India will do nothing to encourage or enrich those States which are well known enemies of democracy and whose acceptance of human rights is only a pretence or a fraud.

September 11, 2001 and now 26th November, 2008 have precipitated a climatic confrontation between the irresistible forces of good and evil, reason and unreason, modern civilization and primitive barbarity. Time has come, when we have to recall what President Theodore Roosevelt said, almost hundred years ago "we stand at Armageddon and we battle for the Lord".

Relations with Pakistan require the highest statesmanship. Partition and its horrible aftermath have unfortunately coloured our response to Pakistan. We cannot honestly claim that we have ever gone out of our way to win the hearts and minds of the people of that country.

India had always been opposed to the two nation theory, but we forget that Qaid-e-Azam Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan had himself repudiated it as soon as he won independence for his State. He had declared that Pakistan would be a democratic, liberal and just State. It would live peaceably with its minority Hindu population, and relations with India would be of friendship and cooperation.

Unfortunately Jinnah died soon of tuberculosis and the first Prime Minister Leaqat Ali Khan was cruelly assassinated. Its excellent first Constitution of March, 1956 was superseded and luckless Pakistanis have had to suffer long and repeated spells of autocratic military rule. The present is the chance to undo the past. Pakistan has got back its democracy; its war mongers are lying low; the establishment understands the futility of war and the Pak created Frankenstein of Terrorism has now turned on its creator. Foreign Minister Pranab must shut up and stop his silly claptrap of 'All options open'. War is not the option. A 'No War Pact' with no loopholes and escape routes is the only option to pursue. Every thing else will take care of itself.

People blessed with a genuine democracy, constitutionally protected rights, and duties of individuals, and an independent judiciary to enforce them, have attained Azadi. Any violent action to secure more of it, or of a different kind or content, is the crime of terrorism, or treason, or both. Pakistan and India must be transparent in their dealing with the local populations on both sides of the LOC and the international community must be able to certify that there is no colonial type exploitation of their material resources. The Kashmir problem found its solution long ago, but the political will has been lacking. President Zardari is ready; Manmohan Singh has to be willing. BJP wants immediate cessation of diplomatic relations. People of India should, and will dismiss it as political bankruptcy and electoral insanity.

A genuine settlement with the Government of Pakistan will make the Army retire to its barracks and make Pakistan's revolving door democracy stable, for a change. Threats of war from India only make our neighbours' democracy wobbly and vulnerable to its old enemies. India must guarantee that Pakistan does not turn out to be a failed State.

India and the United States are pledged to fight a war against terrorism. Our Ministers however, are not acting like warriors, but policemen. Their emphasis does not seem to be elimination of terrorists but on catching a few and punishing them through our judicial process. All our attempts, to make Pakistan admit that the Mumbai terrorists are Pakistanis, and prepare elaborate dossiers for the consumption of Pakistan and other world States, are futile and wasted effort. India and the United States must persuade Pakistan to believe that terrorists are also a threat to its fledging democracy. It is in its own interest to cooperate with us in exterminating this lethal virus. The three governments must together hunt them out in their habitations and destroy them. This action is urgently called for and must be undertaken before any terrorist organization can lay its hands on nuclear weapons. It is a frightful scenario of consternation throughout the world. The war against terrorism cannot be fought without neutralizing the States which foster, finance, and harbour terrorism.

We know the birth place of both Sunni and Shia terrorist organizations. We must persuade the Security Council to take decisive action. If the Security Council's action is paralyzed by the Veto of one or the other member, we must be prepared to act alone, in exercise of our right of self-defence, expressly recognized by the Charter of the United Nations.

The heart warming development which we have failed to notice or publicize, is the declaration made by thousands of Muslim clerics who under the inspiration of Darul-Ulloon declared that terrorism is condemned by Islam. There is not one word in the Holy Quran to sanctify the killing of innocent, unarmed, children, women and old men. The terrorists are too cowardly to engage the military forces and regular combatants. Tackling terrorism will require unapologetic honesty and total moral clarity. The rogue States must be identified, named and tamed. To hobnob with them for whatever reasons is treason against the Indian nation.

The Middle East is a dangerously troubled area. In formulating our policy we have to do some fresh thinking, owning our past mistakes and striking a bold path, guided by international law and impartial justice. We shall not subordinate these, as we have shamefully done in the long past, to short term electoral gains. We will give no quarter or hospitality to nations that breed terrorists and sustain armies of criminal murderers, nor to those who cannot exist without destruction of another member state of the United Nations. India is a secular nation, and in the evil dictionary of some nations, we are classed as infidels who have forfeited their right to live. We cannot, and shall not allow nuclear weapons to fall in the hands of those who are sworn to destroy us. Crocodile tears shed by experts on self inflicted wounds shall not move us. World Peace requires sacrifices from all concerned, but we will not call for any from those whose survival and security are not fully secured. In sum, we will shun warmongers, overt and covert, but build monuments to those who died of love making, even if some what excessive, like our beloved Mahatma.

Domestic Issues

Something equally revolutionary has to be accomplished on the domestic front. One of the priceless legacies of British Rule is the judicial system with its emphasis on absolute integrity of character and a high degree of technical competence in the shape of deep knowledge of law and tremendous facility in sifting facts and analyzing evidence. At the same time, justice was prompt and cheap. Every citizen today knows, that our judicial machinery has totally crumbled. It should be the primary duty of Government and Parliament to restore the system to its pristine glory.

Lord Brougham in his peroration of the speech on Law Reform said, "It was the boast of Augustus that he found Rome of brick and left it of marble. But how much nobler will be the sovereign's boast, when he shall have to say, that he found law dear and left it cheap; found it a sealed book, left it a living letter; found it the patrimony of the rich, left it the inheritance of the poor; found it the two-edged sword of craft and oppression, left it the staff of honesty and the shield of innocence."

The present method of recruitment and dealing with judicial delinquents is totally outdated and impracticable. India has the experience of 1993, when a credible and foolproof impeachment motion failed, because the ruling party did not vote and the required 2/3rd majority could not be collected. It was a case in which Parliament's corruption cooperated to sustain its companion - the judicial corruption.

Moreover Judges are made to sit on benches, before which all sorts of matters turn up. Some of them arise out of areas of law of which, one, more or all the Judges on the Bench have not the faintest idea. Litigants have had the misfortunate of appearing before Benches in serious criminal cases, where not even one of the Judges could claim any familiarity with criminal law. Counsel even find it difficult to decide, how much enunciation of the relevant law they must attempt or when to stop, in the belief that their argument has at last been understood. It is easy to deal with a loquacious Judge, but it is difficulty to fathom a non-speaking one, and the ignorant usually adopt a sphinx-like posture. Repeated suggestions, that matters relating to specific branches of law should be put before Judges who are experts in those branches of law, have fallen on deaf ears. Perceptive practitioners only, while sitting in Court, observe the frequent miscarriages of justice happening before their eyes. These go unnoticed by others and do not even evoke a protest.

Dealing with this deficiency does not require any legislation. It can be done by setting up traditions binding on the Chief Justice of the Court.

Foreign investors in India and India's lucrative international trade depend upon the swiftness and competence with which cases are decided. It is a scandal that thirty million cases are pending in the Subordinate Courts and thousands in the higher Courts. Prestigious Law Commissions have time and again reported that we need to multiply our courts five times. This shall be speedily done by the new Government.

By reason of its unpardonable dilatoriness, criminal justice has, by and large, lost its deterrent punch. Crime and criminals continue to grow and threaten the stability and security of society.

About four years ago, 'Transparency International' and a Delhi-based 'Centre for Media Studies', a research firm, undertook study of corruption in India. The result published the same year said that Indians pay out more than Rs. 20,000 crores as bribes every year and scores of public servants at all levels are involved.

Connected with the question of more and competent courts is the issue of corruption. It is unfortunate that the political system and our legislators in particular have become totally insensitive to this galloping cancer. But the people know that corruption has permeated into every part of our body politic, and unfortunately, it has ascended to the level of the Apex Court. The public suspicion is heightened by the reluctance of the Supreme Court Judges to declare their wealth. Once the people's faith and confidence in the judicial process are gone, the vacuum will be filled by musclemen and murderers, who unfortunately abound, in our society.

Legislation has failed to deal with this menace, proving the old adage that we cannot legislate character. Our schools and colleges curriculi need to be reformed, to include ethics and moral science as compulsory subjects. Parents who have to get their children admitted to educational institutions, more often encounter corruption, even in the temples of knowledge.

The current tenure of Parliament even saw large wads of currency notes being bandied about on the floor of the Lok Sabha. The first step to be taken by voters is to ensure that only persons of the highest integrity are voted into our legislature, Cabinets at the Center, and the State level.

For the last six months practically the whole world is reeling under the blow of the economic meltdown. India too has not escaped the catastrophe. Wise economic policies will have to be put in place, but dealing with growing corruption should be an urgent and conspicuous strategy.

On the economic front, the solution is not to revert to the old system of Government controls, licenses and permits. That will be a remedy worse than the disease.

Our Finance Ministry must now study the principles of Keynesian economics, which worked for the United States during the nineteen thirtys and for almost all European countries during the Second World War. Massive investments in infrastructure and new jobs for employing those who have lost their earlier ones, and the new ones who are entering afresh the employment work force, have to be created. Private entities, which promise to take this course must have easy access to public funds, with strict supervision, to prevent misuse and malversation.

Our pluralist multi religions and multi lingual society can march forward only by demolishing dividing walls and cultivating a dominating Indian identity. Lesser identities will coexist. This is best secured by a rational secularism which makes the needs of the Republic paramount, with power to trump all religions, beliefs and practices. The twenty fifth Article of our Constitution, the Charter of Indian secularism, correctly understood, requires every Indian life to be guided by reason and logic and inspired by love and charity. In the distribution of economic, political and social rights, the State shall remain neutral and treat all as equals; religion of a citizen shall never justify any hostile discrimination. The new Government shall expound and enforce this secularism without deviating from it, to get some electoral advantage. Two examples will clearly illustrate this principle. If the scripture of our group ordains "Go forth and Multiply" an over crowded nation with insufficient goods of the world can legitimately enforce control of births and numbers. If a young man under wrong parental influence, refuses to recite Vandemataram as being opposed to his religion, the State may respect his choice, but can well deny him admission to a public school.

The Constitution of India recognizes the need for reservation in Legislatures and in public employment for those sections of our society, who historically, have been unjustly treated and suppressed. The women of India, doubtless, belong to this category. On democratic principles, half the members of every legislature must be women but as a compromise it has been proposed that one third of the seats in Parliament must be reserved for them. It is unfortunate, that a male dominated society is still resisting this proposal from becoming law. The next Government and the Parliament must secure this justice for women at the earliest possible opportunity, which cannot be beyond the first six months of its tenure. This makes our Parliament more orderly, more purposeful and certainly more colourful.

This missive is our advice to voters to identify honest candidates with high liberal education, committed to international peace and domestic unity, with a past record which guarantees that they will not abandon principles, when seeking public office.