By K Raveendran
It is dangerous to claim that whenever a court decision is against you, it is threat to democracy and whenever it suits you, it is democracy at work. This is what former home and finance minister P Chidambaram has done.
Having exercised all his judicial options successfully to dodge the investigation agencies all this while, he cannot suddenly claim that he has no faith in the judiciary. The ruckus created over his arrest, performed in a most dramatic manner that one is used to seeing in Bollywood movies, following the decision by the Delhi high court to quash his anticipatory bails in the INX media case, amounts to declaring that he has lost his confidence in the judicial process. As a senior lawyer himself, and very much a part of the judicial process, that is least expected of him.
If he has faith in the judiciary, which he obviously has had until the circumstances forced him to take a contrary stand, he should have cooperated with the investigators as ultimately it will be the courts that decide whether he is guilty or not. Instead, he behaved like an ordinary criminal giving the slip to the police. He had been missing since Tuesday evening until he surfaced at the AICC headquarters to address a press conference there, flanked by members of his legal team.
“I believe that the foundation of a democracy is liberty, most precious article of the constitution is Article 21 that guarantees life and liberty. If I’m asked to choose between life and liberty, I will choose liberty,” Chidambaram said at the press conference, which was also attended by other Congress leaders.
The longing for such liberty is not exclusive to Chidambaram. Liberty is valued by every individual and if this is cited as an excuse to run away from the law, it strikes at the very concept of the rule of law.
As finance minister involved in the alleged out of the way sanctions, as testified by an accused, there is certainly a needle of suspicion pointing towards Chidambaram. It is in his own interest, and that of his family and party, therefore, that he comes clean on the allegations. If he has had no role in it, he is resourceful enough to establish his innocence before the due process of law and he should not be unduly worried.
Of course, there would be no escape from confinement, which he should have accepted gracefully if he had been convinced about his conscience. After all, there is no ground for him to fear that he would be subjected to physical abuse, as it happens with ordinary mortals in police custody. In fact, he has been assured of decent behaviour by the investigators, with the court even allowing his family access to him for a specific time period every day during his custody.
Chidambaram claims that in the INX Media case, he has not been accused of any offence nor anyone else including any member of his family and that there is no charge-sheet filed by either ED or CBI before a competent court. He should be all the more happy that he has a strong case and this should have given him more confidence to face the law, rather than run away from it. This is particularly so when he claims that he respects the law and hopes that the investigating agencies would also do the same.
The Congress party brought little credit to itself by raising the bogey of democracy in defending Chidambaram and opposing his arrest. The party described the arrest as ‘broad daylight murder of democracy and the rule of law’ by the Modi government, at the same time expressing full faith in the ‘fairness and impartiality of the judiciary’ but at the same time questioning the Supreme Court decision not to oblige the former finance minister by agreeing to hear him out urgently so as to deny CBI the right to apprehend him.
If Chidambaram and the Congress party really believed that it was merely personal vendetta, they should have maintained it that way right from the moment the CBI initiated the case, but by using the judicial process to challenge the action, they were expressing their willingness to subject themselves to the decision of the courts. Once they do that, they have no other option but to respect judicial decisions.
And when trouble comes, it comes like an avalanche. Just as the Delhi high court quashed Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail, Madras high court on Wednesday turned down son Karti Chidambaram’s plea seeking an interim stay on an income tax case before the special court for MPs and MLAs. The case related to the alleged non-disclosure of Rs 1.35 crore received by Karti Chidambaram and his wife in cash for sale of lands in Muthukadu of Tamil Nadu. Karti Chidambaram approached the Madras high court, stating that he was not an MP during the time the alleged crime happened, but the court refused to entertain his plea.