Moral Quotient Of Dr Manmohan Singh
For the Congress, which is in the last throes for its struggle for survival, this was the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back. The summoning of former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh by the CBI special court in the coal scam case is a setback which will hit it hard, and hit it where it hurts. When Special CBI Judge Bharat Parashar announced the names of the five accused, there were incredulous gasps. When the accused No 6 was named, the entire courtroom fell into silence. Manmohan Singh was not described as the former PM, but as the then Coal Minister. The Judge noted that there was a “conscious effort on his part to somehow accommodate” the Aditya Birla Group’s flagship Hindalco in the 2005 allocation of the Talabira-II coal block in Odisha.
The Judge also agreed that as the prime minister, Manmohan Singh “could not personally look into the minute details of each and every case placed before him”, but also said that it was Singh himself who had opted to keep the coal portfolio with himself. Singh’s reputation as an honest and meticulous man also came in the way of the judgment. It was a classical case of refutation of the old adage “honesty always pays”. The statement made by Singh Private Secretary, B.V.R. Subramanyam, had stated that Singh was a “very thorough and diligent person” and “as the departmental minister, he would go through what the Secretary, the Minister of State and the officers below in the PMO has written in the file”. It seems that this statement nailed the Accused No 6 in the coal scam. Singh was known for his silence, which was not missed out by the Judge too. In his judgment, Parashar has said that Singh “chose to remain silent” on the excess coal allocation to Hindalco. This act of silence on his part prima facie appears to be a conscious decision.”
In another famous trial of March 1922, Judge C.N. Broomfield, I.C.S., District and Sessions Judge appointed to try Mahatma Gandhi for charges of causing civil unrest and sedition, had said: “The determination of a just sentence to be passed on you is perhaps as difficult a proposition as a Judge in this country could have to face. The law is no respecter of persons. Nevertheless, it would be impossible to ignore the fact that you are in a different category from any person I have ever tried or am likely ever to try. I have to deal with you in one character only. It is not my duty, and I do not presume to judge or criticise you in any other character. I am trying to balance what is due to you against what appears to me to be necessary in the interest of the public; and I propose, in passing sentence, of simple imprisonment for six years.” The Judge had added, “If the course of events in India should make it possible for Government to reduce the period and release you, nobody would be better pleased than I.”
When Judge Parashar summoned Singh on charges of criminal conspiracy, criminal breach of trust by a public servant under the IPC and under provisions of the Prevention of Corruption Act, he too admitted that he was doing so with a “heavy conscience” and with “full realisation” of the effect this will have on the “morale of the country as a whole”.
Understandably, there was a barrage of breast beating by the Congress brigade. Even members of other political parties joined the bandwagon in terming Singh as one of the most honest politician the nation has ever had. Kapil Sibal said, “I don’t think anyone in India believes that Manmohan Singh can do something wrong or corrupt. He was extremely cautious and he always wanted to be on the right side of the law.”
Singh has, on his part, in his typical style, reiterated: “I respect the judicial process of this country. I hope in any fair trial I will be able to establish my total innocence.” The nation will have to wait and watch if Singh will appear before the court on April 8 and answer the queries on his alleged offences of criminal conspiracy and criminal breach of trust. He has the option of approaching the high court for a stay on the summons issued to him.