B S Raghavan

Time for President to ask questions

B.S.RAGHAVAN | Updated on February 19, 2013

Yet another bombshell of a scandal — this time over the hefty kickbacks in the purchase of helicopters from AgustaWestland – has burst, followed by the usual dismissive stand by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, that the Government had nothing to hide. His offer of a discussion on it in Parliament is also part of the sanctimonious something or the other that has become the hallmark of the Government.

For, the Prime Minister knows that with the whip on UPA partners forcing them to toe the official line, the Government has nothing to fear.

The latest scandal interestingly resembles that of Bofors in the way it has surfaced. As in the case of Bofors, ‘We, the People’ of India have come to know of it thanks to the action initiated by a foreign government.

It will no doubt run the same course as Bofors did. The Government’s repertoire of delaying tactics will be brought into play until it fades from public memory. Even assuming a discussion is held in Parliament, the Government will first deny all allegations as false, baseless, mischievous and malicious.


There will be the make-believe of investigations if the Government is hard-pressed. The CBI officials will have a jolly good time globe-trotting. In the Bofors case, the prosecution was mucked up resulting in courts in India and abroad giving adverse verdicts and the main accused, Ottavio Quattrochi, going scot-free. There was also the exploit of Madhavsinh Solanki, the then Minister for External Affairs who took all the trouble of meeting the Swiss Foreign Minister at Davos to deliver him a note asking the Swiss authorities not to cooperate with Indian investigating agencies as the Bofors case was “politically motivated”. An encore on these lines may well be on the cards! What is most infuriating for ‘We, the People’ in all this is that we can no longer count on any of the Opposition parties too to be serious and earnest in exposing corruption or hunting the culprits to the outermost reaches of the earth in order to bring them to book and mete out condign punishment.

The public cannot shake off the impression that the political class is at one in ensuring that all exposes, regardless of their origin, are given a decent burial. The Opposition, instead of pursuing them to the hilt, is content to go along after an initial pyrotechnical display in Parliament and before TV cameras.

The question that has never been asked so far in the midst of all this futile furore is: What is the President doing? Is he not, under the explicit wording of the Constitution, an integral part of Parliament itself and, therefore, a tribune of the people?


Has he not taken a solemn oath that not only will he “preserve, protect and defend the Constitution and the law”, but also that he “would devote himself to the service and well-being of the people”? Are these empty words, and has he no duty and obligation to live up to them? Should he construe himself as holding a sinecure job and reduce himself to a rubberstamp?

In regard to national security and defence, in particular, the Constitution specifically casts on him a grave responsibility by vesting in him the supreme command of the defence forces.

Since it also envisages a special law laying down the manner of exercising this responsibility, it is clear that this is not just one of his many functions, binding him to accept the advice of the Council of Ministers, but a distinct role in its own right.

Otherwise, all substance is knocked out of the provision propping up a Supreme Commander who is neither supreme nor commander.

By looking the other way when actions of the Government affect the morale and the fighting capabilities of the defence forces, he may well become a party to endangering the safety and security of the nation itself. In matters jeopardising defence and security, therefore, he should take a hand by asking for full information under powers given to him by the Constitution and ensure that the Government conforms to the strict canons of propriety, prudence and probity.

Published on February 19, 2013

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