Does the plea of being an Indian nationalist provide for licentiousness?

Shabir Khan’s bail plea
In the name of nationalism
By Dr. Javid Iqbal  

Shabir Khan, former health minister, is still on the run (at the time of writing this article). As per the latest reports, a bail application has been moved-no issues with that. Moving a bail application is a right that is beyond debate. However moving a bail application with a plea of being an Indian nationalist and opposing separatists amounts to making a provision for licentiousness-extravagance, recklessness, decadence. By taking recourse to the plea, Shabir Khan has put the administration of justice in quandary. Will it ever stand public scrutiny, while hoping and praying that such a plea does not stand at the bar of judicial scrutiny? Nor, it is again hoped and prayed, should the accused be provided any ground to bank on official patronage in his absconding spree. The Indian institutions-the executive, the legislature, especially the judiciary would have to ponder, and ponder hard, whether taking the plea of being an Indian nationalist is a plea enough for a bail, whatever the crime alleged to have been committed.

Other issues are involved; police version states that FIR was registered as soon as the victim approached the police. The other version says that FIR was registered after court orders asked the police to act. Chronology of events needs to be clearly spelt out. This is not the only underlying lacuna in the unfolding events so far. Shabir Khan may not be traceable, how about his personal staff. The attitude of the personal staff of the minister prompting the lady BMO to attend the ministerial chamber repeatedly, in spite of her pleas that minister may settle issue with her seniors is questionable. It points to a sequence that on the face of it is neither desirable nor reasonable. Shouldn’t these officials be in the police net? And how did the security cover provided to minister leave him, he might have ceased to be a minister; however the security cover was not taken off him, even as legislator, he is entitled to it. The pertinent question remains-did the higher-ups order lifting of security cover, if not as is surely the case, how did PSOs let him leave without an insistence on accompanying him, as per security manual? As per some press reports PSOs are missing, while Jammu division police chief says, they have reported back-where lies the truth? Yet again, certain other issues are involved in the build up to the case. 

In the official hierarchy Chief Medical Officer [CMO] the district head, Director Health Services [DHS] the provincial head, Commissioner/Secretary Health stand above Block Medical Officer [BMO]. BMO is answerable to CMO, CMO to DHS and DHS to Commissioner/Secretary. I put the question to a journalist friend-a lady-how justified the minister was in summoning a lower rung officer bypassing seniors. Pat came the reply-none of them was a lady! My friend might have been trifle cheeky in her prompt reply, or the answermight have been half jest, but I wonder-did she have a point? Still some issues remain, which are partly case specific, partly of general nature. 

Charge against Shabir Khan has still to pass the judicial scrutiny. However at the very outset, the failure at the bar of public opinion is pronounced. It stands related that in a face book poll, out of about 140 respondents, only a few voted yes to the question implying whether government notwithstanding its pretensions, is serious in finding the location of former health minister and nabbing him. 130+ replied ‘No’ implying government is not serious. Social network polling may not be not be authentic, still it shows the trend-loss of credibility. Why should the government credibility be at such low ebb, inspite of the minister having resigned and Chief Minister being prompt in forwarding the resignation, and the governor giving his assent? The only reason being that there is a wide spread feeling that a drama enacted before is being re-enacted. It has a past, which is none too pleasant, in fact far from being pleasant, a harder word might needlessly heighten the pitch, hence better avoided. 

In none too distant a past, just a few years’ back-2006, certain ministers as well as top officials were implicated in a sex scandal, the ministers resigned. Taken that what they were charged with were mere allegations, the case proceeded, and as reported, witnesses turned hostile. The transfer of the case to Chandigarh, the stretching of the case, all left a bitter taste. Those implicated might claim that justice was done. Whether it seemed to have been done is still a matter of speculation. Public morality or the perception of it relates to masses, it is built on an overview over a period of time. And the public perception is hardly ever wrong. 

Take the case of Chief Minister-Omar Abdullah, accused of involvement by Muzafar Husain Beg in the said sex scandal. Though Beg didn’t persist with the charge, in fact tried to wriggle out of it, heat of moment had him say, what he could not substantiate. Even if he had persisted with the charge, he wouldn’t be believed, because on this count Omar stands clean in public perception. That does not translate into being free of charges of omission and commission in discharge of public duties. Omar stands to answer a lot; however hardly anyone believed what Beg in the heat of moment charged him with, public perception asserted. The same may hold true of some of his other colleagues; I wish it would hold true of the entire team, he leads. 

Mass psychology has a queer pitch, it operates differently at different levels. On a spiritual plan, proverbially it spells out in vernacular as-Awaz-e-Khalq, Naqarai-e-Khuda [voice of people is the voice of God almighty]. Spelt out in practical terms, it holds true, public perception is supreme. That is exactly why, it is said that ‘Justice should not only be done, it should seem to be done’. If the judicial verdict pronounced is not in tune with the public perception, it fails to stick at the bar of public opinion. 

Yaar Zinda, Sohbat Baqi [Reunion is subordinate to survival] 

Feedback on: