Tuesday, April 24, 2012

When your shoe pinches...

Abhishek Manu Singhvi, now in the midst of a raging controversy involving some sexapade on video that circulated on the Internet, particularly the most popular Social Networking sites, the Facebook and the Youtube, is no simpleton. Dr. AM Singhvi has one of the most impressive educational career I know of – Schooling in St. Columba's, college education in St.Stephen’s College, Delhi, Trinity College, Cambridge and the Harvard University, leading to B.A.(Hons), M.A., and Ph.D under constitutional lawyer Sir William Wade of Cambridge University.

Abhishek Manu Singhvi is no innocent in public life either. He is a highly successful and highly paid Supreme Court Lawyer. He must have been on Congress Party’s Legal Cell for a long time. Presently a he is Congress Member of the Rajyasabha from Rajastan, and Congress Party’s spokes person who wields the power of his legal acumen, political savvy and catch-as-catch-can argumentative skills fielding questions with an agility that is admirable and abominable at the same time if you happen to be on the other side of the political spectrum. I happen to have been on the other side, like his late father, Dr. LM Singhvi, a renowned lawyer, author, and India's former High Commissioner to the United Kingdom, who belonged to Bharatiya Janta Party, and its Rajya Sabha Member too.

My dislike of AM Singhvi begins with his Ph.D theses, which was on the Emergency Powers. The expression ‘Emergency’ takes me back to the dark days of Indian democracy, 1975-77 (26 June 1975 – 21 March 1977 to be precise) I was working in Mumbai then, and went to Kerala for getting married in end-May 1976. As I was going through the process of inviting my friends, I got some “underground literature” of the period, brought out by the RSS. (How many people know that of the nearly 5000 political prisoners in Kerala 5/6th belonged to the RSS, and most of the remaining, to the Naxal movement. That was reason for The Economist to describe the movement as “the only non-left revolutionary force in the world”, I am told. I heard Panyan Ravindran, former CPI Member of Parliament often claiming that he started growing his hair during the Emergency as a mark of protest. His party had actively supported the Emergency and CPM passively opposed it!) When I went to my friend Raju (late P.Rajendran), the first thing he did was to snatch away the anti-Emergency stuff from my pocket saying “with this you will go the Viyyur Jail, not to Guruvayur Temple tomorrow for your wedding. So whenever Dr.AM Singhvi spoke unapologetically of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency regime, I used to feel like throwing a stone at the TV screen. His job indeed was to defend the indefensible Congress policies.

Now, he appears to have come on video screens across the world in some sleaze stuff. The picture that immediately comes to my mind is the famous lawyer casting aspersions on the leadership of the Country’s largest Opposition party on moral grounds when two or three Karnataka legislators were caught watching pornographic stuff somebody had sent into their mobile phones as MMS message. Those who had sent the stuff had obviously arranged videographers recording the proceedings of the Karnataka House to point their cameras on cue at the legislators curiously viewing the sensational clippings, forgetting for a while that they were being framed. The pity is that even later, their party and they themselves were frantically giving ridiculous explanations for their behaviour which is criminal according to the Cyber laws. They were not media-educated.

Now, I have not seen the video stuff implicating Dr.AM Singhvi, fortunately because I am not very active on these social networking sites, and they seem to have removed the video footage following complaints. As I have written earlier in one of my blogs, if only I had downloaded the said video or passed it on to someone for viewing, I too was liable for prosecution, because it is not just libellous stuff but also pornographic. Though as viewers many people may not be driven by any criminal intent as the affected person Singhvi would like to believe. But then who do you and I stand up against!

Now, I surmise that there was this a sex tape released of Abhishek Singhvi where (allegedly) he was seen having sex with a senior female lawyer in his Supreme Court Chamber. Singhvi claimed that such a CD either does not exist or if it does, it is clearly and obviously morphed, fabricated and forged. On 18th April, Congress Party, releases a statement declaring that the CD was a personal matter of the senior lawyer. In common parlance this is termed as “distancing”, if you ask me. It was only on 19th April the video went public on Facebook, YouTube and other social networking sites, after Singhvi got an injunction from Delhi High Court against its public airing.  Singhvi naturally blames social media sites for sensationalism On 23 April 2012 he quit as chairperson of Parliament Standing Committee on Law and Justice and as the Congress spokesperson. Dr.Singhvi, said as he resigned as Party spokes person and head of the key parliamentary panel, not because he admitted guilt. Then he said that if he had done (he did not) what he is alleged to have done, it was private and consensual affecting only members of the two familes (who luckily stood by him). He resigned because he did not want “even the slightest parliamentary disruption” which is stuff and nonsense he knows. Parliament will be disrupted seeking a probe into the authenticity and reliability of the video tape. It is gist for the mills of the Opposition because Dr.Singhvi used to be such a virulent upholder of moral and professional standards, and never restrained himself from those rapier thrusts against the Opposition. It si slightly intriguing that the Congress Party statement referred to the unpleasant event as a purely personal matter of Mr.Singhvi while understanding their relief that he has “taken the right step” to avoid embarrassing the Party.

Why did Abhishek Manu Singhvi resign as Congress spokesperson and from the prestigious Parliamentary panel on personnel, public grievances, law and justice? If only he had asked another famous lawyer who is now also a member of the Union Cabinet, he would have perhaps clarified that moral AM Singhvi’s turpitude (if any at all) and his professional/political integrity (or sex-life and professional and political lives) could be kept as water-tight compartments. Had he not told the Indian Parliament when asked for clarification as the Addl. Solicitor General of India in V.Ramaswamy case he told them that “personal integrity and financial probity can be separate”. Application of that logic with minor alteration of words here would allow AM Singhvi to walk head held high, chin up. Or, if there are similar tapes involving high profile professionals or politicians available, one could play that before higher judiciary as Kapil Sibal did when he played the tape of actor Sanjay Dutt talking to don Chhotta Shakeel in Court as journalists listened on, to convince the Court that his client (a richest diamond merchant who used to finance Bollywood movies in partnership with dons) was not the only one who talked to the underworld, if that is a crime! 

The Leader of the Opposition in Rajya Sabha, Mr.Arun Jaitley, sounds highly restrained in his comments on this issue involving a colleague in the Supreme Court Bar. But Mr.Jaitly’s party has asked for verification of the video tapes at the CFSL. Ha! They do not know that Congress Party can get the report they want from CFS, if they could manipulate the CBI as they have so often done? Under the circumstances, the maximum negative publicity to the Congress is the only politically ‘usable’ outcome from this ugly episode. The Opposition should ignore Mr.Singhvi’s appeal to stop “gleefully watching, promoting or participating in a person’s natural and understandable discomfiture... respecting privacy issues” and go for his jugular! This is the Congress Party’s regular trick: they can milk every communal issue in this country during every opportunity in the most banal manner for political advantage; but when there is something the BJP can exploit, the Congress will shout from the rooftops “not to exploit communal issues for political purposes”. In the past they have drummed up non-issues and cooked-up stories to vilify Opposition politicians and parties for political purposes at will. As the lawyer (whose annual income is Rs.50 crores) understands, he is entitled to seek relief from the Courts. If the CD was doctored by his former driver Lal, he should have been booked under law and punished. Why did Dr.Singhvi go for an “amicable settlement” with such filthy people?

This is what Rajiner Puri writes in The Statesman: " Is it not fair to surmise that the out-of-court settlement was made on the basis of this petition and a certain sum of money exchanged hands between Mr Singhvi and Mr Lal? If not, what were the terms of the settlement? It is truly astounding that a role model for legal probity in Parliament should openly settle with his former employee after being blackmailed. Blackmail is a serious crime. Mr Lal even confessed to committing that crime by creating a fraudulent CD... What Mr Singhvi has accomplished therefore is the virtual legitimisation of blackmail as a weapon..."

There is a lesson for many of us in this. As long as other people’s shoes pinch, you “gleefully watch” and enjoy their discomfiture. When your own shoe pinches, even if you are the Ethics Committee of the Parliament...
Abhishek Manu Singhvi' last reported remark is This: "Either the CD is morphed or it is not. In either case, it raises no public interest issue." Matlab, "therea kya jathaarrey?" Public interest kya, how do you know the public is not interested, some way?

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