At a time when the BJP government’s relationship with the higher judiciary is strained and the Opposition has been trying to capitalise on it, a new book by former Law and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid gives an interesting insight into the previous UPA government’s engagement with the judiciary.
The book, Spectrum Politics, comes months after a Delhi court acquitted former Telecom Minister A Raja, DMK Rajya Sabha member Kanimozhi and other accused of corruption and money laundering charges in the 2G spectrum allocation cases. The book is a forceful defence of the Congress’s argument that there was no wrongdoing in allocation of 2G licenses.
Khurshid recalls that on the night before the Supreme Court cancelled 122 spectrum licenses in 2012, “someone left a copy (of the judgment) at my gate in a sealed envelope.”
“I was shocked, to say the least, but there was little I could do in the middle of the night. Early next morning, I was scheduled for a trip to a southern state. I went through the business of the day, but asked for updates from Delhi. Some parts of the judgement as delivered in the court seemed different from the copy I had received. Upon my return to Delhi, I discovered that the judgement uploaded was different. I immediately brought the matter up with Chief Justice Kapadia who promised to have the entire matter examined. Although I did not hear anything further, I am given to understand that some action was taken against a clerk of the court registry,” he has written in the book published by Rupa Publications.
Khurshid has written that when the judgment came up for discussion in the cabinet meeting later, he “ventured to suggest that other judges of the court might be more sensitive to the government’s concerns.” Pranab Mukherjee, the then Finance Minister, told him “not to indulge in wishful thinking”, he has written.
“One could sense the obvious tension between wizened politicians and the judiciary. And yet this was the time that my relations with successive chief justices were excellent. Far from the NDA government’s indefinite procrastination of the Supreme Court Collegium’s recommendations, I used to get the lists cleared right away,” he has written.
Talking about BJP’s slogan of Sab ka saath, sab ka vikas, Khurshid has written, “One wonders whether despite divisive politics of polarization of communities, the BJP feels that there is need for lip service to the India of yesteryears. In other words, BJP needs a bit of Congress to survive as indeed some people in the Congress might have begun to feel that the Congress needs a bit of the BJP to revive its fortunes.”