THE GREAT INDIAN CIRCUS
Jain, Jain go away
Even as Justice Jain has been burning midnight oil to unravel the larger conspiracy behind Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination, there seems to be an even larger one afoot to ensure that the final report does not see the light of day. The once bitten Gujral government is not only twice shy now, but even seems to be in a mood to wreak vengeance on the retired judge’s Commission of Enquiry, which had relegated his government to a caretaker capacity. This is apparent from the utter disdain with which Justice Jain has been asked to pack up, after being given just a week to submit his final report.
No doubt the Commission has been given nine extensions so far. But Jain has sought just a month or two more to do justice to his report, which he is on the verge of finalising, having already submitted his interim report and also completed all hearings. But unlike other extensions which were all given during the pendency of the interrogations, and when there was no clear idea of the time-frame that may be needed, the present one is sought only to complete the administrative work necessary to enable submission of the final report. Having conceded nine extensions, we wonder how one more would be improper, that too when it is evident that this would be the last one. It beats one how such a request can be turned down because that may mean vitiating seven years of painstaking work of a constitutional body formed to inquire into one of the most important events that altered the course of the history of the nation.
The purpose of any commission of inquiry could only be to get at the bottom of the subject it is inquiring into. No doubt a time-frame for the completion of the process has to be set, but such a limitation cannot be enforced at the cost of truth. Few enquiry commissions have been or will be able to complete their mission in the allotted time owing to a plethora of factors ranging from tardiness in the commission’s own way of working to non-cooperation from those lawfully and morally bound to extend assistance. But whatever the reasons for the delay, any attempt to cut short an enquiry, either by aborting it midway or by refusing to grant its reasonable request for extension, goes against the very spirit behind the formation of such commissions.
Who told this government that the people of the nation will not wait beyond the 28th of February to know the real truth behind Rajiv’s assassination? Or will this government also drop the Bofors probe which has already dragged on for ten years now on the ground of the law of limitation? Could this precedent of time taking precedence over truth become a cardinal principle in any future probe by any Commission of inquiry so that if it does not complete its tasks within the stipulated time, then it has to call it a day, even if the truth is not out?
But then, are these politicians, who now refuse to grant even a month time to a judicial representative, so punctual and timely in all their acts or in the discharge of their duties, that they deem themselves fit to preside over the fate of a probe panel? Do these characters have the credibility and moral authority to refuse the minimum administrative time required by an apolitical person to collate and correlate seven, years of hard work, when their own watches and calendars have never tallied with the time mentioned in their programmes and agendas, not to speak of the piles of files gathering dust in their offices, causing time and cost overruns to innumerable projects involving people’s money? Are we to believe that a couple of months extension to Jain panel will render this nation a pauper? Also there is the moot question on how a caretaker government, which also happens to have an insurable interest in vitiating the commission’s findings given the composition of its coalition, can take such a major policy decision. No doubt, any new government can reinstate the time frame, but the fact remains that this government has clearly acted beyond its credible limits.
The reasons are obvious. Ever since Jain dropped the bombshell that brought to the fore the DMK’s shady past and led to the fall of the Gujral government, he and his report have been subjected to the maximum ridicule by those affected, though there is no evidence that Jain nurtured any personal animosity towards them. Besides burning of his effigies and copies of the report, there have also been tonnes and tonnes of insinuations and innuendos let loose with the sole aim of casting aspersions on Jain’s personal character and his method of working. Just a week back, Home Minister Indrajit Gupta in a bid to prepare the ground for winding up the Jain panel, had charged the Commission with not properly investigating the conspiracy aspects of the Rajiv Gandhi assassination case. The ruling party higher ups, and that includes the Prime Minister, do not hesitate to say ‘off the record’ and with a smirk, Justice Jain’s request for a salary hike to suggest that that is what the judge is really interested in. Not a chance is missed to offer insights or quote anyone or anything that comes handy, to drive home the point that Jain and his panel are fit to be ignored.
In short, never has any government so blatantly and unabashedly and without regard for decency or finesse, paraded its hatred and contempt for a judicial commission duly formed under the law. And never have we seen such a spectacle of politicians in power, who themselves have been appointing inquiry commissions by the dozens to hound their opponents, singing in chorus to scuttle a probe that has actually reached its logical end. Perhaps it is their fear that, if the interim report culminated in this election, the final report may auger even bad portents for them, rendering them a lot more untouchable in the post-poll scenario.
If truth is bridled by time, it will only end up either in distorting it or burying it totally. And if truth is subjected to the whims, fancies and discretion of such dubious custodians, the chances of it getting eaten up by those responsible for its safe keeping are very high, as is being witnessed. It is indeed a blessing that the present incumbents are already counting their days in power. The ‘Jain, Jain go away’ chorus will no doubt have its sequel soon. For Jain is certain to ‘come again another day’.
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