TRYSTS AND TURNS

Runaway ambition can be a virus

With the lollipop offered to former CJI Gogoi, people must gird themselves for other respected judges succumbing to such temptations, thereby sounding the death-knell of justice in the India of our dreams

Runaway ambition can be a virus

Former CJI Ranjan Gogoi (L) has drawn criticism by accepting RS membership. PTI

Julio Ribeiro

Mumbai wears a deserted look! I was born in this city and have lived here for most of my 91 years. So I should know. During riots when curfew was imposed, one could encounter near-empty or empty streets. The coronavirus, simply the fear of catching it, has made people stay indoors. Though curfew has not been announced!

Many, like my wife and I, have voluntarily chosen quarantine at home. The government ordered schools and colleges to close till March-end. Cinema houses, malls and sports arenas are shut. Then the government’s own offices decided to work with skeleton staff, ensuring that trains and buses ran with only the most intrepid of adventurous commuters. Finally religious services in temples and churches have stopped.

The silver lining is that there is now plenty of time to catch up on my reading. On my 90th birthday last year, close relatives gave me a book each as a gift. I finished reading all except the one gifted by my own brother — Raghuram Rajan’s The Third Pillar. I hope to finish it this week since I have all the time needed to do so!

Incidentally, I take much pride in being the batchmate of Raghuram's father, Govindrajan, who was the topper of the 1953 IPS batch. He was only 20 when he appeared for the competitive exam. That was allowed in the early 1950s. If he had been 21, he could have competed for the IAS and topped! The IAS topper of 1953 was way behind Govindrajan and the second in our batch, Anand Kumar Verma, who was also 20!

Raghuram’s writings reflect the character of the man. The moral and the ethical matter to him more than position and status. I thought to myself that if he had been by chance the CJI, he would not have ever thought of accepting a Rajya Sabha membership like the recent incumbent of that high office has done, demeaning both himself and the institution thereby. Ambition can also be a virus! And runaway ambition worse than the corona!

Value systems have changed dramatically over the decades post Independence. I have noticed, for instance, that today many IPS entrants are willing to sacrifice their dignity and honour to please political masters at the cost of their fealty to the law and the Constitution and even their own principles! If their own advancement in careers depends on sycophancy, they will go the whole hog at the cost of their own countrymen, who they conveniently forget at such times. And yet these new entrants are certainly more knowledgeable than we ever were and probably even more intelligent!

Justice Gogoi may not have had the intellect of a Vivian Bose or a VR Krishna Iyer, but lawyers who have appeared before him did not complain of a lack of grasp of details or the finer points of law. Where he has now been judged by the common man as wanting is in his value system, which even his own senior ex-colleagues have sadly found wanting.

The present dispensation has gone about systematically eroding our institutions like the police, the bureaucracy and the media. It has succeeded in depriving the Election Commission of the high pedestal on which TN Seshan had placed it. The Army and the judiciary are two institutions left on which hapless citizens rely in times of stress. Alas, they are being relentlessly besieged. With the lollipop offered to former CJI Gogoi, the people must gird themselves for other respected judges succumbing to such temptations, thereby sounding the death-knell of justice in the India of our dreams.

The Congress government was not averse to the temptation to appoint largely pliant judges. At close quarters as Adviser to the Governor of Punjab, I had seen Governor Siddharth Shankar Ray, a successful lawyer from the Calcutta Bar and a known loyalist of the Gandhi clan, nursing the ambitions of local judges and lawyers in the pursuit of a judiciary working in close consort with the executive — a goal set for himself by Justice Gogoi in his new role of a Rajya Sabha MP!

The difference between the present government and the old ‘natural party of governance’ is that the Congress was wary of being found out, whereas the BJP is ready with all guns blazing to defend the indefensible. The BJP has, in fact, perfected to a fine art the practice of justifying all its acts of omission and commission.

And while political machinations continue in their naked pursuit of power, we the people of India are left to suffer injustices for which no remedies will be available in the near future! Unless our Supreme Court and High Court judges start disliking lollipops!

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