‘The tapes should be for the purpose of the department concerned. They cannot be put in the public domain’

Sansad Bhavan, parliament building of India.

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Veerappa Moily: After I took over, we have cleared as many as 64 bills, in addition to promulgating laws. It is said that justice delayed is justice denied, but I have gone one step further to say, justice denied is justice buried. I held a national consultation with all the chief ministers, the law ministers of the states, Supreme Court judges, the Chief Justice of India and all the high court chief justices and other senior judges. After that, we adopted a policy, a deliberate conscious policy, that we should reduce pendency of court cases, right from the subordinate courts to the Supreme Court. An average of 15 years should be reduced to three years. We have taken decisions on policy changes, with a focus on human resource development and leverage of ICT technology. All of them need appropriate funding. We also put the condition that a state litigation policy, in consonance with the national litigation policy, will have to be evolved by each state government, otherwise we will not release funds. There is no point just blaming the judiciary unless we empower it or allow it to build the capacity, both with regard to the physical infrastructure and the processes and many of the reforms. You cannot put the reform packages in a strait-jacket.

Coomi Kapoor: On the Radia tapes, questions are being asked about how an individual’s phone could have been tapped in this fashion for two consecutive months. Being a legal expert, is this the normal way to go about or is this an aberration?

It is an aberration. I don’t think it is a normal way and particularly the leak which has taken place. Sometimes, tapping is done but the manner in which it was leaked is something that needs investigation.

Shekhar Gupta: Was your ministry’s opinion sought into the investigation of the leak?

Till now, I have not found any reference made to the law ministry.

Coomi Kapoor: But the general public is a little confused. The Income Tax asked for permission to tap phones, but they had not used that information in years. Now that it has appeared in the media, it has been given to the CBI.

Now it is a matter for investigation and a matter for concern.

Shekhar Gupta: How serious is this leak?

That is what we have to find out. Even if some information is asked for, it should be for the purpose of the department concerned. It cannot be put in the public domain.

Nistula Hebbar: Coming back to Andhra Pradesh, are we going to see a deputy chief minister from Telangana very soon?

We have already gone on record that there will soon be a deputy CM from the Telangana region. There was a gentleman’s accord which was agreed to at the time of the agitation. We are implementing that now.

Swaraj Thapa: Recently, when the PM’s affidavit was filed in the Supreme Court with regard to the 2G scam, the Attorney General replaced the Solicitor General. Can you shed some light on why this change took place?

There is a separation of powers. There is a certain autonomy and independence enjoyed by the each of the two—the DoPT (Department of Personnel and Training) and the DoT (Department of Telecom). That’s why we divided, separated the matter, otherwise there could have been a conflict of interest. The CBI is represented by one advocate, the DoPT is represented by the Attorney General and the Solicitor General continued to appear for the DoT.

Coomi Kapoor: Some in your own party say that the law ministry showed a lack of coordination between its law officers. For example, the Solicitor General at one stage argued even for the CBI.

That is what we have stopped. We thought that it is not appropriate.

Maneesh Chhibber: During the hearing in the 2G spectrum case, as well as the appointment of the CVC, the Supreme Court bench has been making some observations on the government and later denying them. Even on the CVC, they have cast aspersions on the government. Does something need to be done to curb this tendency?

They have explained that in the course of an argument, they sometimes provoke. Sometimes it depends on the circumstances, sometimes they get provoked. I can understand that because I have been a criminal lawyer. We always put all sorts of inconvenient questions to a witness and sometimes the judges will say, ‘Don’t put this question’. Sometimes the best comes out of a witness or an advocate if he is provoked. Some judges think that that is the way to elicit the truth. I don’t think too much should be made of this. Ultimately, the merit of the case is important.

Unni Rajen Shanker: Why is your government adamant on not setting up a JPC on the 2G issue?

Yes, there is a demand for a JPC. Whenever you want that, it has to be conceded by the government or the House. Have you seen a debate on the floor of the House to justify the demand for a JPC?

Raj Kamal Jha: What is the argument against holding a JPC?

In a parliamentary democracy, it is for the people to come to a conclusion on this. That conclusion will be reflected by the treasury bench, the government. Parliamentary debate is meant for the entire nation and ultimately a national consensus is evolved. That basic elementary step has not been taken. JPC formation is the prerogative of Parliament.

Nistula Hebbar: Going into the winter session, corruption scandals have hit the government. Do you think it is possible for the government to recover its reputation?

There is nothing to suppress, nothing to hide, nothing to brush under the carpet. In the Supreme Court, we said that if the court wants to monitor the CBI investigation into the 2G issue, we are ready. We are not shutting out the discussion. We are being very transparent in our representations before the Supreme Court. We are open on this.

Nistula Hebbar: In terms of public perception, how are you going to rescue the reputation of the government?

What is the public perception? Making allegations does not amount to public perception. And the Congress party and our government have acted when there has been a public perception. The chief minister of Maharashtra stepped down, the telecom minister stepped down. I don’t want to get into the merit of the 2G spectrum issue, but the issue of a JPC came up when we were in the Opposition. Did the government of the day agree to a JPC then?

D K Singh: What do you think of the SC observations on P J Thomas? Do you think that after the strictures, it has become untenable for him to continue?

That matter is in the Supreme Court. The SC observation is there. Ultimately, the government will formulate its own policy.

Maneesh Chibber: Do you have any plans to check the phenomenon of ‘uncle judges’, judges whose kith and kin practise in high courts?

The Judicial Standards and Accountability Bill has been cleared by the Cabinet and most probably, I will present the Bill before the Lok Sabha. That will take care of many of these things. It will then go to the parliamentary standing committee.

Manu Pubby: Do you mean to say that Jagan’s exit from the Congress will make no difference to you at all in Andhra Pradesh?

Everyone who wants to quit the party thinks that the entire world will collapse. We have our right or wrong self assessments. I don’t want to get into those details because he was with us sometime ago. The organisation is above an individual and ours is a big organisation. We have a very stable government and a very stable party. And it is not that easy to destabilise our party in Andhra Pradesh.

Swaraj Thapa: In Karnataka, every political leader is alleging that the other side denotified more land. Even Congress leaders have been facing these allegations.

In Karnataka, it is an open record that you purchase government land and denotify it. In the present case, the Chief Minister’s son or relatives took land for Rs 20 lakh and sold it for Rs 200 crore. This kind of transaction can take place only in Karnataka.

Swaraj Thapa: Such allegations were there earlier too.

Let there be an inquiry. Who is preventing it? But what is surfacing today with CM Yeddyurappa is unprecedented. It is not a mere transaction. It is a well-documented transaction of corruption.

N P Singh: Why is there hesitation about implementing the death penalty?

There is no such hesitation. It is not a political thing, it is a humanitarian thing. All over the world, how many people are hanged? In our country, the last hanging took place about 15-20 years ago.

N P Singh: Take the Kasab case. Are you satisfied with the way it is being handled?

The case has seen the quickest justice delivery system ever in the country. Thereafter, he has the right to appeal. Just because he belongs to another country, we cannot cut short the process of the law. This is a democracy. We have a judiciary which is independent. We cannot impose the will of the state or the central government. To hang this man, not to hang that man—it is not done like that.

D K Singh: What is the Congress’s approach to Justice Soumitra Sen’s impeachment? Are you going to vote for it?

In a matter like impeachment, you cannot attribute it to one party’s stand or the other. It should be above the party.

Coomi Kapoor: What has been the loss due to the logjam in Parliament, apart from the financial losses?

It is unfortunate. The nation has been deprived of a healthy debate. Many bills have not been passed which need to be passed. Timely action has to be taken. After all, the responsiveness on the part of the government is reflected through the parliamentary proceedings—that has been shut out for now.

Transcribed by Maroosha Muzzaffar

One Response

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  1. venugopal said, on December 6, 2010 at 22:18

    It is glad to say that the Hon’ble Law Minister, Sri Veerappa Moily has said that “justice delayed is justice denied, but I have gone one step further to say, justice denied is justice buried”. In Trial courts and High Courts, a large number of cases are pending due to various reasons. the right solution is to increase courts, judges and infrastructure.

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