Like subaltern history, subaltern journalism too has many supporters. Talk of Mayavati’s corruption, they will say, ‘Oh come on, why do you target her, after all that is incipient Dalit leadership...’
|Journalist Sam Rajappa|
Raise your voice against DMK chief Karunanidhi’s misdeeds, there will be ‘tut, tut’s all round. ‘Ouch these are things best left unsaid...After all he represents the rebellion of the long-oppressed non-Brahmin castes.”
Damn that Azam Khan, they will roar back in fury, “You are anti-muslim,” and so on.
Criticism, if any, always in sotto voce and always taking care to provide enough loop holes for the accused.
In that unflattering tradition comes this pathetic defence of the late Dalit judge Ashok Kumar.
Sam Rajappa, a veteran Chennai-based journalist, starts off saying “In Tamil Nadu, it is easier for a Dalit to go through the eye of a needle than to become a judge of the Madras High Court.”
Perhaps Mr Rajappa, once an advisor to that contemptible Don Quixote of Indian politics, Subramnyam Swamy, doesn’t know the state of affairs in Tamil Nadu.
Where else but in the august portals of the Madras High Court can a sitting Judge call the media to his office and complain that he is being discriminated against? Where else will a judge go to the Chief Justice's chambers and threaten him with dire consequences if he is not given a portfolio of his choice? And get away with it all because he is a Dalit ?
Justice CS Karnan, a man not unknown to controversies, questions collegium selection, calls it ‘unfair’
If Justice C.S.Karnan is setting new bench marks now, the late Ashok Kumar too had in his own way !
He was selected as a direct District Judge in 1987 against the quota for the Scheduled Castes (SCs). When he was about to be sworn in, Ziaudeen, a Chennai-based advocate, filed a PIL questioning his selection under the quota.
Ashok Kumar was born to Christian parents - Santiago and Saveri Ammal in 1947, the petition said and his subsequent ‘conversion’ to Hinduism was purely notional.
The Dalit Christians in Tamil Nadu are not eligible for reservations for the SCs, but classified under the Most Backward Class category.
To circumvent such a handicap, many Dalit Christians seek to hide their religious identity and succeed in their jobs or seats in educational institutions under the SC quota.
Time and again election winners will be challenged by the losers on the ground they had falsified their religious origins and win their case too!
Our Ashok Kumar too had converted to Hinduism when he was 28 years old, allegedly in a sudhi ceremony performed by the Arya Samaj.
Incidentally post such conversions with an eye on reservations, those who so convert would continue to be practising Christians for all practical purposes. So was the case with Ashok Kumar too.
He married Ebi, a Christian, on 9 September 1973, whereas he had allegedly converted to Hinduism on 11 April 1971.
Again all his three children have Christian names viz. Augustin Baskar, Edwin Prabakar and Bobby Arun. In his PIL, advocate Ziaudeen also averred that Ashok Kumar was a member of the parish of St. Antony's Church in Alavanthakulam (district may be mentioned here) and that he had been visiting and donating regularly to the Church.
|Justice Subashan Reddy|
But the then Chief Justice Subashan Reddy, who (in) famously upheld the off-with-their-heads order of Jayalaltihaa government, sacking thousands of employees at one go, dismissed the PIL, shrugging away the facts placed before him as of little consequence. In a way Justice Reddy facilitated the subsequent elevation of Ashok Kumar as a High Court Judge.
Sam Rajappa does not go into these issues at all, but profusely sheds crocodile tears over the plight of the Dalits and then goes to ‘show’ that Ashok Kumar had the courage to take on the high and mighty and hence deserves our respect.
"Ashok Kumar became the principal sessions judge, Chennai, at the turn of this millennium (Everything regarding this judge who rose from the lowest of the law is stated with a grand sweep !) On 8 February, 2001, a man called SP Shenbagamoorthy filed a complaint before Ashok Kumar that MK Stalin, then Mayor of Chennai belonging to the DMK, had amassed wealth disproportionate to his known sources of income.
“Instead of waiting for a summons, Stalin appeared before the judge and filed an affidavit. An inquiry by the Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) was ordered by the court. The DVAC report said that no prima facie case was found and the case was dismissed."
So Stalin had nothing to hide. And Ashok Kumar had no bias. See how it all turned out to be in the end.
Ashok Kumar himself would not have minded the DVAC conclusions one way or another, he moved on, always scrupulously respectful of the law, Sam seems to imply.
I remember that enquiry held during my days in DVAC. The petitioner Sambanda Moorthy was an ADMK stooge who wanted to gain popularity. Pictures of the interior decor and furniture in Stalin's house were published in a fashion magazine. Sambandamoorthy based his complaint only on this magazine, without doing any groundwork and filed a complaint. Since it was election time, Sambandamoorthy got the wide publicity he required.
Remember it was the DMK rule and so the DVAC acted swiftly and filed a closure report. So everyone was happy including our very Dalit-solicitous editor.
Let us also tell him that right from the beginning Ashok Kumar had acted true to his character. An inspector of police as caught red handed while receiving bribe, and arrested by DVAC. But in an attempt to create an alibi for himself, he had a back-dated telegram sent to make it look as if he was on casual leave on the day of the trap. But that dirty trick was found out, and a separate case registered against the advocate who engineered such a devious plan, our very own Ashok Kumar and two telegraph employees. All the three were convicted "till the rise of the court."
Also there were talks in the corridors of power that it was Justice Ashok Kumar who helped in the acquittal of M.K’s colourful elder son Alagiri in the T.Krishnan murder trial, conducted in the Chittoor District of Andhra Pradesh.
In the circumstances, advancing any arguments on behalf of Ashok Kumar that he is a Dalit is nothing but vintage Karunanidhi trick, of a piece with his Dravidian legacy.
And the delicious Andhra connection spills over into another story !
Justice Katju has noted, "Throughout my stay as Chief Justice, there was never any problem as she respected the independence of the judiciary. The other political party (DMK) through their representatives put tremendous pressure on me to recommend certain names for judgeship whom I found to be totally undeserving.
“Some of these persons were never seen in courts, though technically they were enrolled as lawyers. These were obviously men of that political party which wanted to pack the Madras High Court with its men, but I refused to succumb to this pressure.”
Sam Rajappa retorts, "Ruling parties trying to get their men into higher judiciary is not uncommon. It is extraordinary for an opposition party, which the DMK was when Katju was the CJ, to try to pack the High Court with its men."
Ha, ha, how naive can one be? Or disingenuous? The power enjoyed by DMK in the UPA-1 was phenomenal, everyone knows after all. Karunanidhi went to the extent of revealing the 'secret understanding document' with Janardhan Reddy to the press when DMK was denied the Shipping and Road Transport portfolio.
(Whatever portfolios finally he wangled, his men and women milked dry, plunging the Manmohan Singh government’s credibility to rock bottom eventually, a key factor behind the Congress’s debacle in the last elections.)
Justice P.K.Mishra who has served in Madras HC, indirectly confirms that Karunanidhi was indeed successful in packing the Madras HC with his chamchas. Mishra records his anguish thus - "Similarly, when I had opposed the appointment of another judge, even that candidate was confirmed as a full-fledged judge and later transferred to another HC. My views on that judge came true when we saw his subsequent judgments in several cases including granting of bail in the Satyam case on so called medical grounds.'' ToI news item
The Judge mentioned by him is none other than Justice Raja Elango, who is now serving in Andhra Pradesh HC.
And pray who is this august Lordship? Before his swearing-in and after the warrant of appointment had been issued, he called on Karunanidhi in the company of another nominee, Justice C T Selvam. Never before in the annals of the Indian judiciary had propriety taken such a knock.
The photograph of that momentous meeting was brazenly released through the state Information department.
(Back in 1996 the then Chief Justice and his family were photographed viewing from within their bungalow the grand baraat of J Jayalalithaa’s now disowned foster son back in 1996. The ostentatious marriage is a key item in the list of corruption charges that Jayalalitha is facing in the meandering Bangalore trial. Well the two are not the same, but ugly nexus shouldn’t be missed on anyone.)
To get back to the story of the duo who made a dubious record in judicial history, while one has been castigated for what he did or did not in the notorious Satyam case, the other is more familiar to the Savukku readers.
C.T. Selvam continues to prove his loyalty by dismissing petitions filed against Karunanidhi's personal security officers, his then close aide and Intelligence Chief Jaffer Sait, and his daughter Kanimozhi.
He also initiated suo motu complaint against his brother with whom he has property disputes. (Our previous blog deals with the issue at length.)
Further Sam Rajappa has also got his facts wrong by mentioning "No one was surprised when Katju constituted a two-member commission comprising Justices Jaisimha Babu and Lakshmanan to inquire into alleged corruption of Ashok Kumar." Justices Jayasimma Babu and Lakshmanan were not serving in Madras HC when Justice Katju was CJ!
Rajappa goes on to claim, "Katju’s story about a DMK minister at the Centre informing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh that his party would topple the government unless Ashok Kumar was made a permanent judge is pure fiction."
But what you offer as an alternative narrative is even more fictional, Mr Sam Rajappa !
"What forced Manmohan Singh to ask the CJI to reconsider the collegium’s decision not to confirm Ashok Kumar as permanent judge was a threat by 18 SC/ST MPs cutting across party affiliation to pull down the UPA government if justice was denied to the latter," you claim.
But no such encounter was reported in the media nor since. Besides no SC/ST MP would go to the extent of pulling down the government for the sake of a fellow Dalit. If a government falls it means fresh elections, and how many at any point of time would be prepared to face such uncertainties?
Besides the way our wonderful MPs offered themselves for sale and voted in favour of the UPA-1 during the no-confidence motion following withdrawal of support by the left is recent history.
That Sam could so audaciously seek to palm off such a cock-and-bull stories on the unwary reader is predictable but - he has an unenviable reputation of putting out sensational reports every now and then without a shred of evidence to back his claims. After all he was a close buddy of that loathsome Swami.
And look at this gem - "During its entire nine-year partnership with the Congress in the UPA, only once it threatened to pull out. That was over the civil war in Sri Lanka. When it was made clear to the DMK that the Congress was determined to help Sri Lanka annihilate the LTTE, it climbed down."
Now if it was serious about its Lankan Tamil concerns, why should the DMK have retracted in the face a “determined Congress?” If anything it should have made the DMK patriarch even more determined to challenge the Manmohan Singh government.
No the ever loyal ally promptly caved in and turned tail, after making the usual noise. We know anyway Karunanidhi has made a life-time career of pseudo-Tamil nationalism. His four-hour fast between breakfast and lunch became a story of universal derision. And he sealed an electoral pact with Congress even while the Lankan Tamils were being massacred in the killing fields of Mullivaikkal.
That Sam has the gall to sing praise of MK’s Tamil concerns, in the manner of many other courtiers, brings the never high credibility of Sam Rajappa a few notches down further.
We would like to stress yet again that the timing of Katju's revelations might be suspicious and debatable, but the facts are not.