Expectedly, Prashant Bhushan has claimed that the CD that has been floating around in the last few days has been doctored. As evidence, he is relying on reports from two sources: one appears to be a private acoustic phonetics expert from the
US and the other a private laboratory from (headed by a former Director of Central Forensics Science Laboratory). The story in yesterday’s papers had quoted a source that was a government agency with high credentials.....one that has been used in several cases in the past. So who’s right and who’s wrong? Hyderabad
Whoever is right and whoever is wrong will be decided in due course. However, what I find unacceptable and funny actually is the press conference Prashant Bhushan convened on the matter. Flashing these two reports, he became the judge of his own case and ruled that he was innocent. As if one would expect him to do anything differently. So he is the accused, the investigator, the lawyer as well as the judge all rolled into one. This could well be a preview of the proposed Lokpal. All powers rolled into one. With no place left to appeal.
Hindustan Times has issued a clarification today on this matter......the author of the piece Vinod Sharma is a well regarded journalist. He has stated that at the right time, the report from this reputed agency will be brought out. Apparently, this reputed agency had conducted something like “waveform analysis” done on “sonic software” to justify its claim that the tape was not doctored. Apparently, this technology is not available with any private lab in
. We will have to wait for HT to bring out this report.....a written copy of which it seems to be having in its possession. The HT clarification today also states that they did try to get in touch with Truth Labs (the India private agency) and their Chairman refused to share details of the investigation undertaken by them, except stating that they had the necessary equipment to do the investigation. Hyderabad
The point however is not whether the tape is doctored or not. Maybe it has been. The point is that different rules should not apply to different sides. When Shashi Tharoor was hauled out of government, he was done so without anything having been proven guilty. Now, I would like to believe that Shashi Tharoor is not one of those typical corrupt politicians that one frets about all the time. He’s been a career diplomat and on a different day, he may well have been found on the side of those who are today for the Jan Lokpal bill. But he was asked to step aside.....pending the facts of the case coming out. Why should the same rules not apply to the Bhushans? Why should they not step aside so that a fair enquiry can be held into the matter?
The Bhushans have got the anti-corruption movement into too much of the wrong kind of limelight. On the one hand, you have Anna Hazare who appears to be a voice of reasonableness now.....he recently stated that he would respect the decision of Parliament, whatever it was (even rejection of the bill).....and on the other, you have these two who appear to be more interested in holding on to their high visibility seat in the drafting committee than in the adverse fall-out that it is causing the anti-corruption movement. Taking advantage of the mood prevailing in the country, Prashant Bhushan has smartly chosen to link the current tapes controversy to the on-going 2G investigation because the judge named was the one investigating the 2G matter. In many ways, he is trying to pre-empt the judgment of the SC. If the SC calls the 2G parties guilty, this will be acceptable to all. But if the SC says that the 2G matter is not sufficiently proven, then Prashant Bhushan will accuse the government of having applied pressure on the SC judges using this tape......threating the judge of an expose of his corruption. Either which way, Prashant Bhushan would have harmed the government. Incidentally, in this entire CD episode, the government itself has stayed out.....its really a wrangle between the Bhushans and Amar Singh.
And what about the land controversy around Shanti Bhushan? The fact that he had recently bought a land in
for Rs 5 lacs.....a deal that should have costed him close to Rs 18-19 crores. A statement was made yesterday in this regard. That the land deal had actually been inked many decades ago, but the seller had refused to honor the deal. Finally, the court ruled in Bhushan’s favor recently and hence the deal was consummated only recently....at the old rates. Would we have tolerated such an explanation if it had been a politician? We would have said that the politician had influenced the judgment. Even if this were true, should the tax not be calculated at market rates....to the best of my knowledge, stamp duties are linked to the ready reckoner of market rates. Why was tax of only Rs 45K paid? Allahabad
This piece is not about supporting politicians. It’s about having one rule for all. What is true for the goose should be true for the gander as well. Ideally, we should have the maturity for proper investigation to happen and then form our views. But if we don’t have the maturity....and if we like to conduct our trials in media....then why should the same rules not apply to civil society activists? If we believe that politicians should step aside while the investigation is going on, why should civil society activists not step aside in similar circumstances?
The real truth is that even if the Bhushans are eventually proven right, they should step aside right now for the larger cause. If they did step aside, they will give the anti-corruption movement a higher moral authority. Shashi Tharoor did not lost his credibility just because he stepped aside......in fact he strengthened it......the Bhushans also won’t lose theirs either if they step aside. But the public at large will feel reassured that the activists are willing to hold themselves to the same high standards they are demanding for politicians and public servants.