Judge Endlaw puts Kalmadi in his place – with Rs 1 lakh fine

The judge who threw out Suresh Kalmadi's request to be allowed to attend parliament showed up his lack of interest in attending Parliament when he was not in jail. The same applies to many of our other parliamentarians.

Mahesh Vijapurkar August 10, 2011 17:44:10 IST
Judge Endlaw puts Kalmadi in his place – with Rs 1 lakh fine

It was just as well that Suresh Kalmadi was not in the Lok Sabha when it discussed the Commonwealth Games (CWG). The government, wanting to save its own skin, would hardly have protected him from the fierce Opposition onslaught.

In the Rajya Sabha, where Kalmadi would not have been allowed since he belonged to the lower house, the two former sports ministers who listened to the debate would scarcely have aided his defence; Mani Shankar Aiyar had his I-told-you-so smile on; M S Gill had no reason to help Kalmadi. The government won’t defend him and the government can’t defend itself. Quite a sticky situation, that.

Kalmadi, therefore, has every reason to thank the Delhi High Court’s Justice Rajiv Sahai Endlaw for having dismissed his plea to attend the winter session of Parliament last week. The Pune MP had claimed attendance was his right.

Judge Endlaw puts Kalmadi in his place  with Rs 1 lakh fine

Suresh Kalmadi. Image courtesy PTI

However, the judge took a contrarian view—it was not the case that “without such participation the citizens of his constituency would suffer”. Instead, he levied a fine—payment of Rs 1 lakh into the Prime Minister’s Fund.

Judge Endlaw’s remarkable 5 August judgement was based on the premise that the plea to attend Parliament was only a ruse for Kalmadi to periodically escape the confines of his 12 x 10 ft jail cell – which is no place for a swaggering VIP who only wanted “fresh air outside the (jail) walls”.

If his parliamentary duties were so important to protect the interests of his constituency, why had he such a poor attendance record—4 to 12 percent—when he wasn’t in the cooler? He preferred to focus on preparations for the CWG and attending sporting events in China.

Justice Endlaw, therefore, concluded that Kalmadi’s presence in Parliament has been “only as per his convenience”. Translated, it means, Kalmadi’s priorities were not about his duties as lawmaker. His non-parliamentary activities surely were not the reason his voters sent him to Parliament.

However, the judgement should not be seen as only Kalmadi-specific. It has relevance to most politicians of all political hues. After all, people see them only as disrupters of debates, and scorers of political points. Seldom are they seen discussing routine but vital issues threadbare.

Discussions, when held, tend to—as happened with the CWG issue—go off tangent, deteriorating into scrum. Most of the talking is mostly later in TV studios - as dialogues of the deaf.

Anyone elected to a legislative body has his task cut out. It needs participation and involvement at various levels without digressing into disagreeable realms. The elected have no business wandering off.

The citizen’s perception is that elected representatives wander off mostly to strike deals and run swindles. The raft of corruption cases tumbling out almost on a daily basis proves their point. Didn’t the Prime Minister himself say that the Opposition too had skeletons in its cupboards?

They see A Raja is in judicial custody; likewise, Kanimozhi. Many others appear to be at the threshold of jail. These and other worthies, if guilty— and the public presume they are even before their trials are conducted—add little to the lustre the political class once had, when service above self was common. Political office then meant doing their duty by the country.

By and large, however, the political class seems to think that the mere act of getting elected itself conferred a right to foster and sustain the single purpose of amassing wealth by dipping into the till, cutting corners, and leveraging political posts to gain advantage – something which even the best of businessmen never manage to find. It makes all such bodies only a sum of the several personal interests.

They are political entrepreneurs. Once elected, they have single-mindedly pursued self-promotion and, if possible, even started political dynasties. Each taluk and town would offer such examples.

Whenever in a jam, the ever-ready argument is that their electoral victory by itself washes away all their sins, like the Ganga does for believing Hindus. The presumption is that the law and judiciary do not matter; that they matter, at least now, is a disquieting development to them.

There are, of course, some rare and honourable exceptions, but they do not make enough of a difference. The dominant political class frowns upon the honest among them as being impractical and stupid. People of extraordinary prudence, if elected, do not manage to win the subsequent ballot. Without the muscle of ill-gotten money, they are often unelectable. It is the tyranny of a subverted system. Both the honest politician and the community are its victims.

If the political class’s credibility is at an all-time low, it is because they besmirched their image themselves. No fraud is worth under Rs 100 crore. Once politics and business mix in one person, in one class of people, it is in perpetual motion. In such an environment, people are likely to believe that perceptions are as good as the truth.

No wonder, judge Endlaw quoted the American newspaper publisher of yore, William Randolph Hearst: "A politician will do anything to keep his job - even become a patriot.” He also appropriately quoted Sophocles, the philosopher: "Nobody has a more sacred obligation to obey the law than those who make the law". This is what the tyrannical elected have conveniently forgotten. To the extent, people would rather not have them around anymore, if possible.

One needs to doff the hat, raise the toast and bow to Justice Endlaw for saying what he did.

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