Posts Tagged ‘Dayanidhi Maran

Judicial Overreach

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One of the strongest and most admired pillars in the country’s constitutional edifice is the Supreme Court. Despite some rare egregious failings, it has served as a solid bulwark against open or insidious assaults against the citizen’s rights and freedoms. When the State has failed to act with circumspection or expedition, the Court has admonished it and issued directions calling for specific actions and timetables under supervised oversight mechanisms. These have served society well and upheld and enhanced constitutional values.

The last week, however, has seen the Court issue certain orders and indulge in obiter dicta that carry overtones of judicial overreach. The first is with regard to a petition by Nandini Sundar, Ram Guha and E.A.S Sarma against the depredations of the Salwa Judum, a vigilante group that had gone out of control in the earlier stages of the state government’s campaign against the Naxalites in Chhatisgarh. What was in origin something of a spontaneous uprising of tribal communities against Naxal oppression in parts of Dantewada district was soon “nationalised” by the administration with major opposition support.

The tribals were forced to abandon their hamlets to be “regrouped” along roadsides in ill-prepared rehabilitation villages.Youths were “recruited” as Special Police Officers, given some paltry training and honorarium , provided guns – though quite a few only carried bows and arrows and lathis – and sent out to confront the Naxalites as combatants, guides and spotters alongside the police and paramilitary forces.

As a member of a fact-finding team with the petitioners, this writer can testify to the abject failure of the experiment. Tribal society was divided; the

Salwa Judum became a rabble and a law unto itself; there was enhanced insecurity; living conditions in the camps left much to be desired; and the local economy was derailed. Indeed, the record was so poor that the Salwa Judum experiment was not extended beyond Dantewada.

The Supreme Court last week passionately and eloquently ordered that the Salwa Judum be dismantled and the militia not be used as SPOs in anti-Naxal operations, which it declared unconstitutional. The state’s inability to pre-empt social unrest or build capacity to control it had led to “privatisation” of security. Worse, the rot stemmed from “the amoral political economy that the state endorses and the resultant revolutionary politics that it necessarily spawns”. Theneo-liberal development paradigm postulated rapid growth “via rapid and vast exploitation of natural resources” to meet global competition and accumulate the wealth needed to overcome poverty.

With respect, Judges are surely entitled to their views and to strike down whatever is ultra vires. But the country could be in deep trouble if the Court were to adopt ideological positions and lay down economic policy. Likewise, the Salwa Judum can be arraigned for any wrongdoing. Again, SPOs, properly recruited and trained, have been a lawful and recognised adjunct to the police over decades in many parts of the country under a variety of names such as village volunteer force, village guards and so forth. The Territorial Army, honorary magistrates, resident welfare associations, and recognised NGOs are all variants of legitimate civic institutions that may be called upon to aid the state. To exclude legitimate and licensed civic action would be to leave everything to a monolithic state.

The same ideological animus against “the neo-liberal paradigm” appears in the Supreme Court’s observations on the black money case where it has ordered that the “slow-moving” High Level Committee appointed by the Centre to pursue the matter be subsumed in a new Special Investigation Team that it has named. It has dismissed the Government’s plea of confidentiality regarding the names of foreign account holders disclosed to it under bilateral agreements with foreign entities, albeit with certain safeguards. Further it seeks a comprehensive action plan with an implementation machinery to curb black money in the future.

Here again, their Lordships are tending to assume wide executive powers and seeking what appear to be simplistic solutions to complex problems that are better left to domain experts. Parliament is seized of the matter of unaccounted money in foreign banks and related issues and the Government is now moving forward under relentless public pressure and scrutiny.

How the Government responds remains to be seen. Constitutional clarity is required. There is reason to pause and examine where we are headed. This is not to exonerate the Government for lethargy, laxity or worse but to avoid the danger of the baby being thrown out with the bathwater, leaving the judiciary to run the country and ordain its governing philosophy.

The Greater Noida land acquisition seems also headed the same way with judicial obiter dicta and Congress politics coming together in a heady mixture. Rahul Gandhi’s latestpad yatra seems more geared to next year’s election in Uttar Pradesh than anything else. This betrays a cynical disregard for governance or development in favour of squeezing political mileage anywhere, anyhow, and play-ing a weak Dalit card in whose name he claims to speak.

Inthe 2G case, the CBI’s findings have finally forced out yet another Minister, Dayanidhi Maran, from the Cabinet. This will not rock the UPA too much as the development was long seen coming and the DMK has lost its power to blackmail. In any new cabinet making that follows, no coalition partner, now or ever, should be allowed to dictate terms regarding the number, rank and specific portfolios to be given to its members. There have been many cases of square pegs in round holes and even now we have Alagizhi, the last remaining DMK Minister, who has played truant from work on the ground that he knows neither Hindi nor English. Why then is he there?

An amusing sidelight in the Supreme Court hearing of the 2G matter was the stern admonition to counsel to reject outright opinions taken from retired judges and jurists in the case. This, even as another Bench sought to appoint two retired judges to the black money SIT it proposed, one of them as chairman.

Finally, the last week witnessed the country’s best athletes fail dope tests. The athletes pleaded not guilty and blame was shuttled between the Sports Authority of India, coaches who were said to have recommended performance enhancing drugs and unscrupulous chemists who sold steroids and other banned substances across the counter. This is a shame. Everywhere in India, sport, especially cricket, is being reduced to money and glory at any cost. Faded politicians have captured power in most sports organisations, treating them as personal fiefdoms. A clean up seems necessary, starting from a dysfunctional Union Sports Ministry.



Stench of corruption has stuck to UPA: All-India survey

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The constituency that thought highly of Manmohan Singh in 2009 — the educated and the literate — no longer thinks highly of his UPA government. In fact, the core message coming through from a CNN-IBN State of the Nation Survey is just the opposite: the UPA’s corruption stinks.

The survey, conducted by Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS) from 1,300 locals in 19 states, confirms that corruption has become a big deal with the aam aadmi, both in urban and rural areas, but more so among the educated classes.

A decisive 60 percent of those surveyed felt that the UPA was running a “Very corrupt” or “Somewhat corrupt” government, with urban respondents showing an even higher percentage of disgust at 66 percent. That’s two out of three people. College-educated people were most vehement and angry, with as many as 71 percent agreeing with the above statements. This is the group from where Team Anna probably finds sustenance.

The constituency that thought highly of Manmohan Singh in 2009 — the educated and the literate — no longer thinks highly of his UPA government. B Mathur/Reuters

Rahul baba, you have a problem on your hands in 2014. Manmohan Singhji, your credibility has been shot to pieces — especially on corruption.

But Gadkariji, Sushmaji andJaitleyji, you have nothing to gloat about. Karnataka is the only state where the people are more concerned about the BJP’s corruption than the UPA’s by a huge margin. You did well asking Yeddyurappa to go, but you have a huge repair job to do.

Interestingly, corruption is a wider issue than the current media obsession with the 2G and Commonwealth Games scams. The survey finds 44 percent of the people agreeing with the statement that “The government has been insincere in responding to issues raised by the anti-corruption movements”, but barely 27 percent of the respondents had heard of A Raja and 25 percent of Suresh Kalmadi. Even fewer (22 percent) had heard of Kanimozhi or Dayanidhi Maran (19 percent).

What this suggests is that the recent incidents of corruption may merely have upped the ante on corruption, but the aam aadmi has more serious concerns about corruption and it goes well beyond the 2G or Commonwealth scams.

Perceptions about central- and state-level corruption also tell the same story. Despite the public’s strong unhappiness with UPA’s poor record on corruption, in many states the concerns are about both central and state corruption. In Karnataka and Andhra, state-level corruption seems like a bigger problem than the UPA’s distant corruption. Dilli door ast.

In Karnataka, for example, 52 percent of the respondents felt that the state government was more corrupt than the Centre, against just half the number who said the Centre was more corrupt. In Andhra, the anger with state-level corruption was 39 percent against 32 percent for the Centre.

Rahul Baba, here’s a tit-bit for you. In Uttar Pradesh, where you are trying to score points over Mayawati, both Centre and state are seen as nearly equally corrupt (at 32 and 30 percent). So maybe you should not make corruption a key talking point.

In Bihar, there is an even more interesting trend: while UPA is seen as corrupt (48 percent) and the state government as a near angel (just 14 percent), the real problems are at the level of local governments – panchayats and zilla parishads. Here the corruption score is 37 percent. Nitish Kumarji, this is your next challenge. Your panchayats are your Achilles’ heel.

Surprisingly, Sheila Dikshit’s government has emerged unscathed, with only 20 percent saying it was more corrupt than the Centre. Or is it luck at work, with people associating the Commonwealth scam squarely with Kalmadi and the Centre?

Given these perceptions, and given the strong antipathy of the educated and literate classes to corruption, it is little wonder that Team Anna is finding traction.

But there is a humbling thought for them, too: only a third of the people polled in 1,300 locations had heard of them, and only one-fourth knew what the Lokpal and Jan Lokpal Bills were about.

But so low is the trust in politicians, and especially the UPA government at the centre, that people implicitly trust the civil society movement more. The Tina (there is no alternative) factor is helping Anna Hazare more than anything else.

   Table 1:UPA government insincere on corruption

UPA government insincere on corruption.

    Table 2: UPA running a corrupt government

UPA is running a corrupt government.

Table 3: Centre most corrupt 

Table 3: Centre most corrupt.

When in power, people start making money, Maran told U.S. Political Officer

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Election symbol of DMK

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In a candid conversation with the American Political Officer in February 2008, DMK Member of Parliament Dayanidhi Maran spoke of corruption in his party and the increasing anti-incumbency factor in Tamil Nadu.

Consul General David T. Hopper, in a cable dated February 23, 2008 accessed by The Hinduthrough WikiLeaks [142702: confidential], informed the U.S. State Department that Mr. Maran predicted that in Tamil Nadu the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam and its partners “would lose about half of their [Lok Sabha] seats if things continue as they are.” Further, “talking about the increasing anti-incumbency factor in the state, Maran alluded to the general impression that the DMK is especially corrupt, saying ‘when people get into power they lose concentration and start focusing on making money.’”

The cable, which was coordinated with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi, explains that on February 15, 2008 the Political Officer at the Chennai Consulate-General met with Mr. Maran “for the first time since he was sacked in May 2007 as the Union IT and Telecommunications Minister following a dispute with Tamil Nadu Chief Minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi.”

Mr. Dayanidhi Maran also spoke about the perils of providing freebies. “The problem when you come to power by promising people free TVs,” he is quoted as saying during the meeting, “is that people soon forget the TVs you gave them and then ask ‘what are you doing for me now?’”

Mr. Hopper reported the estranged DMK M.P., who is now back as Union Textiles Minister, as being “very downbeat” about the United Progressive Alliance‘s prospects in the 15th Lok Sabha election, observing that “the UPA is in tough shape, especially after Gujarat.” Surveying South India, Mr. Maran also “expected significant losses for the UPA partners.” He was “pessimistic” about the Congress’s prospects in Andhra Pradesh, “saying Chief Minister YSR Reddy’s popularity is on the decline and that he expects Congress to lose a substantial number of the 29 Lok Sabha seats it currently holds. But he was quick to add that in both Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu the UPA’s predicted losses stem from failures of the DMK and Congress parties and not from effective opposition.”

The Chennai consulate cable reported Mr. Maran as going on to assert that “the opposition AIADMK in Tamil Nadu and the Telugu Desam Party (TDP) in Andhra Pradesh have floundered” and that “any UPA losses will have ‘nothing to do with Jayalalithaa (the AIADMK leader) or Naidu (the TDP leader).’” Further, he “acknowledged that the INC would likely pick up seats in Kerala at the expense of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) but said the gains would not be nearly enough to offset UPA losses in Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu.”

Mr. Hopper, the experienced diplomat, noted that Mr. Maran’s falling out with the DMK leadership was in part due to financial reasons, and so “his swipe at DMK corruption, although largely accurate, reflects some sour grapes.” Moreover, the Consul General pointed out in the cable, when in favour with DMK president and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M. Karunanidhi, “Maran joined in the TV and other give-away schemes that helped the DMK win the 2006 state elections.”

Interestingly, while the DMK M.P. was scathing about the DMK, he was all praise for Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, arguing that the Congress party needed to name him as its prime ministerial candidate for the 2009 Lok Sabha election. Although he recognised that it would be a long shot, Mr. Maran contended that “Rahul is the only chance they’ve got.”

Rahul, Mr. Maran added, would benefit from the legacy of his father Rajiv Gandhi’s popularity in South India. The dynastic element of Rahul’s elevation would play well down south, he remarked. “If you haven’t noticed, we don’t have much of a problem with dynastic politics down here. In fact, we seem to like it.”

The cable also reported Mr. Maran as saying that projecting Rahul as the Congress’s candidate could help motivate young voters, but he was being held back by his handlers, who were managing him too closely and keeping him cloistered. “Rahul’s big problem, Maran said, is that ‘he doesn’t get to see real people.’”

Consul-General Hopper, too sharp not to detect a subjective element in the insights provided by Mr. Maran on Mr. Rahul Gandhi, supplied this comment towards the end of the cable: “His views on the likelihood of Rahul Gandhi taking the reins in Congress are perhaps colored by his view of himself as part of a new breed of young Indian politicians, playing a similar role in Tamil Nadu’s DMK as Rahul does for the Congress party. To the extent he sees Rahul going places, he is seeing a brighter future for himself too.”

By December 1, 2008, Mr. Maran was back in the DMK fold and in his grand-uncle M. Karunanidhi’s favour. When it came to the 2009 Lok Sabha election, his prediction was off on Tamil Nadu where money power played a huge role – and the DMK bagged 18 seats against the AIADMK’s 9, and the DMK front bagged 27 against the rival front’s 12. Mr. Maran’s “pessimism” was way off on Andhra Pradesh where the Congress, led by a hugely popular YSR, took 33 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats. He completely misread the role of the AIADMK leader, Ms Jayalalithaa, in creating the groundswell that was in its early phases in mid-2009. But his prediction that the DMK was heading for a downfall on account of the corruption issue came true with a vengeance in the Tamil Nadu Assembly election of mid-2011.

Raja names PM, Chidambaram, says ‘I should be rewarded’

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Manmohan Singh, current prime minister of India.

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In the Supreme Court today, A Raja presented a spirited defence of the decisions that have landed him in Tihar Jail. One of the more controversial consequences of his decisions was that two Indian companies were able to sell the licences Mr Raja granted very cheaply to them at a massive profit to foreign investors. Mr Raja said in court that the Prime Minister and then Finance Minister P Chidambaram were aware of this. “The Finance Minister approved the sale in the presence of the PM. Let the Prime Minister deny it,” said Mr Raja in court today.

Mr Raja was arrested in November for selling mobile network licences and 2G spectrum while he was Telecom Minister in 2008 to companies that were ineligible. A spin-off from the alleged scam is that two of those companies – Unitech Wireless and DB Realty – then sold equity to foreign companies – Telenor in the case of Unitech and Etisalat in the case of DB Realty. The Indian companies made huge profits – they had been sold the licences at throwaway rates, but were able to sell them at huge mark-ups, leading to the conclusion that they had profited at the cost of the government.

In court today, he said, “Where is the crime? Where is the conspiracy? Telenor buying a stake in Unitech Wireless and Etisalat buying a stake in DB Realty was totally legal as per the corporate law. The Finance Minister approved the sale in the presence of the PM. Let the Prime Minister deny it.” And added, “What the telecom companies do after I give them spectrum is not my domain.”

Mr Raja has been questioned about why he decided against auctioning spectrum instead of awarding licences on a first-come-first-serve basis. “If the policy pursued by me was wrong, then all former Telecom Ministers since 1993 should also be jail with me,” said Mr Raja in a Delhi court this morning. “If I had auctioned spectrum, that would have been a crime, as it was a Union Cabinet decision,” he said.  The government and the PM have said that it’s not the policy but Mr Raja’s twisted implementation that saw companies like Unitech and DB Realty allegedly jumping to the head of the queue to get licences out of turn.

Like his party, the DMK, Mr Raja has stressed that he followed the policies introduced by his predecessors in the NDA government that was in power till 2004, when the UPA coalition was elected.

Mr Raja said, “As Telecom Minster Arun Shourie distributed 26 licences while Dayanidhi Maran distributed 25 and I (Raja) distributed 122 licences. Numbers make no difference, however, it is to be noted that none of them auctioned the spectrum. If they had done no wrong, why am I being questioned? Let them deny that they have not done what I did. I was just following the 2003 Cabinet decision that is not to auction 2G spectrum. If I am following the law, I am not liable to be prosecuted. In fact, I should be rewarded.”


P Chidambaram, who was Finance Minister when India’s telecom scam played out in 2008, refused to comment on Mr Raja saying that he (Mr Raja) could not be held responsible for the foreign partners who were roped in by two Indian companies after he awarded them mobile network licenses while he was Telecom Minister. And that the Prime Minister and Mr Chidambaram were aware that Unitech Wireless and Swan Telecom tied up with foreign firms Telenor and Etisalat respectively after they received 2G licences.

But, answering questions, Mr Chidambaram told PTI that there was no sale of spectrum by Unitech and Swan Telecom to foreign partners; instead, they were issued fresh shares by promoters. And that this was discussed in the presence of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh(Read: Shares divested or diluted was the only issue discussed, says Chidambaram)

Mr Chidambaram also said that his ministry’s examination of the matter was limited to whether Swan Telecom and Unitech were divesting stake or diluting shares through fresh equity.

If an investor buys existing shares off the owner of a company, the money goes directly to the owner.  If fresh shares are issued for the investor, the money is pumped into the company. But in this case too, the owner of the company benefits because the value of the company shoots up, in turn increasing the value of the shares held by the owner.

The legality of the deals with Telenor and Etisalat has not been challenged by the CBI, which is investigating the scam.  Experts have referred to the transactions involving them to point out the extent of the telecom scam allegedly conducted by Mr Raja.  While he gave licenses to companies like Unitech Wireless and Swan at hefty bargains, they were able to attract enormous investments from foreign companies for the same licenses.  This is seen as an indication of how Mr Raja cost the government thousands of crores by under-valuing the licenses he awarded as Telecom Minister.

Written by THE LAWFILE

July 25, 2011 at 4:40 pm