V.R. Krishna Iyer, a retired Justice of the Supreme Court known for his high standard of integrity and judicial credibility has come out openly against the Indo-US Nuclear Agreement and his comments deserve attention at the highest level. His first public comment in the shape of a letter to the Prime Minister of India appeared in Mainstream (August 31).
Before being appointed a Supreme Court judge, Justice Iyer was Minister for Irrigation and Electricity in Kerala State. Presumably he can speak with some authority on the subject of Energy. In his letter, however, he mostly confined himself to the political face of the Agreement. In the first place, he warned Dr Manmohan Singh that the United States ?can be diabolic in its hegemonic objectives?. India, said Justice Iyer, ?will be reduced to a satellite position?. Further he said: ?American propaganda is so powerful an agent to condition na?ve minds and dollar-tempted souls that even our bureaucracy, including our Ambassador to US may succumb to the pressure of the Yankee lobby.?
Justice Iyer probably has not realised that our Ambassador indeed may have been. But he has reproduced a letter written to him by a friend who said: ?To regard George W. Bush as India'sbest bet in the present international scenario is an affront to the world movement against Bush'spolicies that has acquired an unprecedented magnitude within the United States itself.? But more important than this public letter is a statement that Justice Iyer released in cooperation with Justice H. Suresh, a former Judge of the Bombay High Court which was published in The Hindu (September 13). This is a measured and detailed study of the 123 Agreement which deserves to be widely read, but for reasons that one finds it hard to understand, no other newspaper reported it in full.
The first point made by the two distinguished judges is that the Executive has no power to enter into any agreement, either with a foreign government or a foreign organisation which is binding on the nation. The agreement will be binding only when it is ratified by the Parliament. There is no provision in the Constitution which gives such authority to the Executive. That says it all. As the two judges put it: ?The Constitution makers were clear in their mind that the Executive cannot act without the authority of the law and it has no power independent of law made by Parliament.? The extremely well-articulated statement ended up by saying that ?it is unfortunate that the Government of India is rushing through this deal even before the US has got its laws, including the Hyde Act amended to assure life-time uninterrupted fuel supplies under all circumstances for the nuclear reactors we intend to import.?
Hopefully, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reads The Hindu.
In regard to the Ram Sethu controversy one can only say that the UPA government'sapproach to the Ram Sethu is an excellent example of reduction ad absurdum. Deccan Herald (September17) said that ?a more watchful government would never have allowed filing an affidavit that says Lord Ram is a fictional character?. It charged the Archaeological Survey of India of ?needlessly raising fundamental questions about a core Hindu religious belief system?.
As for the silly issue raised by Karunanidhi, the paper said that his party, the DMK ?must realise that it would not be in its interest to stoke a political crisis for the ruling alliance when a mid-term poll appears on the horizon?. Karunanidhi was just being childish to ask which engineering college Ram attended to build the sethu. He might as well ask which Engineering College God attended before he created the Universe.
The Indian Express (September 14) thought that the Congress ?has never been particularly smart about handling sensitive issues of faith?. It pointed out that the UPA government'sinitial management of the affidavit on the Sethusamudram project ?was marked by that familiar ineptness?, but the fact is that Congressmen are so far removed from the masses that they are singularly unaware of what the country thinks. The paper summed up the situation by saying that ?state secularism?as it has been conceived in India?isn't constructed to interrogate faith but merely to show equal respect to every faith within the country.? The Times of India (September 15) which sometimes loses its head when it comes to matters secular strongly condemned Union Law Minister H.R. Bharadwaj for going ?one step too far? by saying that ?Lord Ram is an integral part of Indian culture and ethos and cannot be a subject matter of litigation in court??an amazing charge to make.
Pompously the paper added: ??he has indirectly endorsed the view that the viability of the Sethusamudram project should be judged not merely on environmental and economic grounds, but should take into account mythological concerns as well. In fact he is talking the language of his political adversary. The secular credentials of the Indian state have just taken another knock?.
The paper said that ?unfortunately Bharadwaj is not an exception (and) most politicians crawl when the religious extremists ask them to kneel?. The Times of India and Bennett Coleman and Co. no doubt remember their own record when Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency. The Hindu (September 15) pontificated by saying that the ASI'sstatement in its affidavit that ?literary texts cannot be said to be the historical record to incontrovertibly prove the existence of characters or the occurrence of events? may be a valid exposition of the scientific method ?but it clearly went beyond what was required in the case?. And for good measure it added: ?That this over-reaching statement and the outcry it sparked should ultimately prompt the government to re-examine the issue to the channel alignment is a reflection of the fragility of the secular, scientific ethos and of the highly charged times when communalism oriented sections lie in wait to sieze any issue that could appeal to religious sentiment.?
It must be pointed out that the pejorative term ?communal? is completely out of place here. If Christians believe in Virgin Birth, they are not being ?communal?. Editorial writers should use words carefully. But when it comes to Hindu faith, our pseudo-secularists lose their sense of intellectual balance. What is amusing and most instructive is the support given to the VHP by Mirwaiz Umar Farooq and Maulvi Abbas Ansai (The Indian Express) of the Jammu and Kashmir who said that the government has no right to question the religious sentiments of people and put deities to scientific tests and proofs. What a world it is we live in!