Kapil Sibal, veteran Congress parliamentarian and senior advocate, talks to Ashhar Khan on Parliament getting washed out for three weeks , with both the government and the Opposition sticking to their respective positions. Excerpts:
It has been three weeks since Parliament has not transacted any business and the government is blaming the Opposition, especially the Congress, for the prevailing impasse. Your comments...
Why should they blame the Congress? It was their alliance partner or the erstwhile alliance partner, the TDP that is creating the problem because the BJP has reneged on its promises. That is why the TDP has moved a no-confidence motion. The fact is by now all the alliance partners of the BJP have realised that it’s downhill for them till 2019, so it’s better to get out of the alliance and expose what the BJP really stands for. The BJP epitomises mayhem and disorder. It is the BJP that had enunciated this wonderful principle that disruption of Parliament is a part of parliamentary strategy and practice. The problem is there is a no-confidence motion and it is not being debated. The Speaker gives a lame excuse that it cannot be debated because there is no order in the House. But then how was the appropriation bill passed? If that can be done, why the no-confidence motion cannot be debated? Moreover, it is the treasury benches that are responsible for running Parliament, not the Opposition.
There are important issues like the PNB scam, the SC/ ST judgment the Supreme Court has given its order on and the demand for special status to Andhra Pradesh. Don’t you think the Opposition should be raising them in the House instead of causing disruptions?
These are the very issues that the government does not want to discuss. Take for example the Nirav Modi issue. How under their very nose could he move out of the country on January 1? Maybe the move was pursuant to a nod by them because had he stayed back the relationship between Nirav Modi and many in the government would be exposed and we would want a full-fledged enquiry into this issue. They also would not be able to debate it because most of the LoUs were dishonoured after 2014. So they do not want a discussion on that; they do not want a discussion on the recent judgment of the Supreme Court, or, for that matter, on any issue. That is why they are making excuses and alleging disorder at the instance of the Opposition.
Two weeks are left in this Budget session. Shouldn’t the Opposition be wanting to discuss the appropriation bill and other important matters, especially in the Rajya Sabha?
The government would not discuss any issue. My fear is that they (government) may adjourn the House sine die because it is not in their interest to discuss all these issues in Parliament. My fear is also that between now and the general elections; there would hardly be any proceedings in Parliament, except just the formal ones. The Prime Minister doesn’t want to answer any question in Parliament. He doesn’t participate in any debate, nobody else wants to answer any question. Just see the unfortunate way in which the external affairs minister has dealt with the death of 39 Indians in Mosul. Despite common knowledge for a year, the minister kept giving false hopes to the families saying they are safe. I don’t know from where did she have this information. These are very serious issues; just see the manner in which this government is dealing with its own people.
The Congress has alleged that the government did not present itself properly on the SC/ ST verdict that was delivered recently by the Supreme Court. As a senior lawyer, do you think the government should once again go to the Supreme Court to seek relief?
The government will never go to the Supreme Court for the simple reason that it is their (BJP) people who have complained that false cases are being foisted on them and that the SC/ST Act is being misused. There is a conflict there. They want the support of the SC/ STs for electoral purposes but there is a lot of opinion within the BJP that this Act is being misused. So, I doubt the government will go in for a review but I think this judgment should be reviewed. We have demanded that this be discussed in the House and we have also protested against the government’s attitude.
The Uttar Pradesh government recently decided to withdraw cases against 131 people against whom cases were going on for being responsible for Muzaffar-nagar riots. Is it the right move?
It’s a mockery of the rule of law. How can a government that is prosecuting people who have committed murders and other extremely serious offences, state that it is intending to withdraw 131 cases. The difference between a democracy and an autocracy is that democracy is governed by law while in autocracy, an autocrat makes the law. Here it seems that the government is making law that despite the fact these people are being prosecuted, they will be let-off. Obviously, their own people are involved.
The fact that BJP leader Sanjeev Balyan has filed a representation saying that all these cases should be withdrawn is itself evidence that these people want to extricate themselves from heinous crimes in which they are likely to be convicted. This amounts to abetment to commit an offence because if the government is telling people that it does not matter if you kill and even if you kill, we are there to support you. And if there is a case against you, we will withdraw it. They are giving an incentive.
There is a lot of talk of data leak and using data from social media platforms to help draft campaign strategies in elections. The BJP has charged the Congress of using the controversial firm, Cambridge Analytica. What’s your response?
Firstly, nobody at Cambridge Analytica has said that the Congress directed them or had a contract with them to do anything of this sort.
As against this, there is hard evidence on record that those who were disseminating this data or using this data were doing so at the instance of the BJP. This is now being reflected in an interview running on a news channel.
Besides, let us assume if the BJP is not involved, they should call Cambridge Analytica and Mark Zuckerberg here instead of taking selfies in California. Then explanation should be sought as to who were they helping, in what manner were they helping and more importantly, when were they helping the BJP who gave the money? Where did the funding come from? Who funded this exercise?
Now, we know it was done during the 2010 Assembly elections in Bihar. The BJP and the JD(U) were alliance partners then and they had won. Maybe the same data was used in the Lok Sabha elections, maybe it was used in other state elections as well. All this requires a grand enquiry; maybe by a select committee of Parliament to delve into the manner in which Indian democracy was being subverted through foreign hands at the instance of a political party in India.