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On Army Chief’s age, we had to go by rules: Khurshid
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, January 5
Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid has said that the Government had decided to reject the statutory complaint made by Army Chief VK Singh to correct his age because “there are rules by which we had to go by”.

In an exclusive interview with the Editor-in-Chief of The Tribune, Raj Chengappa, Khurshid went on to explain, “Nobody in government thinks of Gen VK Singh as anything but the most outstanding Chief of Staff. I think he is held in very high esteem. I don’t think anyone believed that he has misrepresented the facts and he is not telling the truth as far as the facts are concerned. There are some facts, that are established and again these can be argued. Not all these facts relate to the actual rules that apply. Hard cases make bad law. There are rules by which we have to go by.”

The Army Chief, in his complaint, had stated that his correct date of birth was May 10, 1951 and not 1950 as per Army records and had wanted it to be corrected.

As to the reason why his Ministry advised the Defence Ministry to reject the Chief”s complaint, Khurshid said, “Not all rules are malleable or flexible to the extent of accommodating facts that are unanticipated. The thing about the rules is that you cannot keep changing them simply because in a particular case those rules give you an outcome that is not entirely to your satisfaction or entirely to the comfort of people involved. It is rules that have been interpreted in a manner which does not allow us to take a decision other than the decision that has been taken. I don’t want to comment any further.”

In the wide-ranging interview, Khurshid admitted that it was a mistake to rush through the Lokpal Bill. He agreed that the Government acted under pressure of public expectations and public demonstrations and that it was a ‘bad idea’ to follow a tight timeline. “If you ask me now, that was a mistake. People were questioning our bonafides. Therefore, we went through with the tight timeline and I think it was a bad idea. We should not have tried to cut our losses: a more flexible timeline would have allowed us to do a much better job on all fronts,” said the Law Minister, adding that the ambiguities in the Bill will be taken care of before the next session of Parliament.

Glossing over differences with ally Trinamool Congress, Khurshid said that Mamata Banerjee could not be expected to go along with the Bill without looking at all the implications. The Government would factor in her concerns, he added.

“It may have been inconvenient to the Parliamentary Affairs Minister but that is not the end of the world,” said the Minister. Asked if he also thought the ‘minority quota’ in the Lokpal Bill to be a bad idea, he responded by saying, “Diversity is an idea, whose time has come; whether you like it or not, it is a part of the maturing of Indian democracy and the demands for diversity are growing”. The country needs to have an Equal Opportunity Commission, he felt.

He pointed out, “Even the BJP, which may not have said yes, has not said no either.” Asked to comment on the prevailing view that the quota could be struck down by the courts, Khurshid said that though he was aware that ‘reservation’ for OBCs did not extend to institutions like the Supreme Court, the High Court and the Lokpal, the courts are increasingly taking into account the changing and growing aspirations for diversity and he would rather have the apex court carry out a judicial review.

Asked how corruption in the judiciary could be weeded out, Khurshid replied that the Judicial Accountability Bill would set standards and mechanisms to ensure that a ‘judge is thrown out long before he gets corrupt’. The Government did not want judges to appear before ‘a constable of the police’, he said.

On the controversial issue of withdrawing the Armed Forces Special Power Act (AFSPA) from certain areas in Jammu & Kashmir, Khurshid declared that the Law Ministry’s considered view was that the Governor ‘is the final authority’ in this matter and can act on his own discretion. “It is a very special case” and there are provisions under which the J & K Governor is to accept the aid and assistance of the council of ministers and others, under which he can act on his own.

The Law Minister clarified that his Ministry had already cleared the Punjab legislation on Anand Marriage Act. “In the normal course, it would apply only to Punjab but what we want to do is to make provisions so that Anand Marriage can take place anywhere in India or even abroad,” he explained. The draft is now with the Union Home Ministry.

what the law minister says on Lokpal Bill

If you ask me now, that (rushing the Lokpal Bill) was a mistake... We should not have tried to cut our losses: a more flexible timeline would have allowed us to do a much better job on all fronts

on lifting afspa in J&K

It is clear that the state Governor is the final authority on this matter. After collating and harmonising different views, we have come to the conclusion that the Governor must be left to decide

on Anand Marriage Act

In the normal course, it would apply only to Punjab but what we want to do is to make provisions so that Anand Marriage can take place anywhere in India or even abroad.





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