Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Of colours of henna and the thorns of corruption

In view of the ominous dark cloud of mistrust that eternally looms over the Indian scene, I must make my position crystal clear right in the beginning. I have never ever seen Sardar B. S. Mehandi Ratta face to face, and though it hurts the ego very much, I must also confess that the gentleman in question is, in all probability not even yet aware of my existence. I tried to help him because his cause was just and because from the enquiries that I made, he came out as a person of impeccable honesty. His sound judicial judgment was testified to by all the advocates I discussed the matter with. The matter of injustice being done to him was brought to my notice by my friend Mr. Shumer Lal Sharma Advocate who is one of the most efficient and the best legal mind that my district (Muktsar) boasts of. I have known several others from the same district who are regarded his peers, I am proud that they belong to the district town eternally honoured by the brief stay of Tenth Guru in the eighteenth century. It is by his blessings that we have better human material than many other areas.
Mr. Sharma told me that Mehandi Ratta was going to be ignored and was slated to lose his well deserved elevation to the High Court, merely because the Chief Justice of India, K. G. Balakrishnan who belongs to a caste considered low in Indian estimation, was therefore determined to promote another low caste person instead of Mehandi Ratta. For this purpose he has prepared a mean strategy unbecoming of a person of his status. I believe that a person sitting in the seat of any judicial authority is deputising for God and s/he must confirm to that belief in order to do justice. I was quite offended that the Chief Justice of India should stoop so low as to deliberately do injustice to a defenceless person belonging to the department of government under his charge. It was unthinkable in many ways and was unacceptable in many more.
People of my status of a common man do not have many options in such cases. That however, is no excuse for tolerating injustice without protesting. At the back of my mind was also the nagging feeling that a schemer who betrays such a partisan attitude, cannot be as clean as the people of India had a right to expect him to be. This meant that the judicial system was contaminated at the pinnacle. In such circumstances, the poison descends to all levels in no time. I also believed that if I brought this to the notice of the honest people in authority, they, being more responsible would be more alarmed and will feel compelled to take appropriate action to put a stop to tyranny of a rogue element who has somehow climbed up the ladder and was threatening to subvert the judicial system, if it was true that he possessed as crooked a mind as I perceived him to possess.
Fortunately, I knew at least two honest people who, I was sure would be in love with the abstract idea of justice. One of them was Mr. Justice H. S. Bedi, a judge of the Supreme Court of India who was my contemporary at college and the university. The other was Manohar Singh Gill, who was a member of the council of ministers at the centre. He had been to the same school and I had worked with him for some time in the government when he was a humble civil servant like me. Tarlochan Singh Member Parliament was also approachable because I had known him for decades. I also thought of taking a chance with the prime minister who was well known to Sardar Paramjit Singh Sarna, the president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee. Manmohan Singh is an honest person and I had thought he would be only too eager to help if the matter was brought to his notice. A prime minister does not have to necessarily draw up issues with such state functionaries. He has to just let them know that he is aware of the injustice being done. Usually that suffices to prevent it. To my way of thinking, which is also the thought process of a common man, matters get immediately remedied when an unjust person’s doings are exposed to peers. When I finalised my plan, I did not have the slightest doubt that Mehandi Ratta would soon see the fulfilment of his legitimate ambition of being raised to the High Court for which he had worked hard all his life.
I was not unaware that the Sikhs are considered as inferior citizens in this brand of democracy and that none may be expected to come to the rescue of a Sikh in distress. This fear was offset by the knowledge that I was approaching three or four persons who were good Sikhs in their own ways and the cause they were expected to support was wholly worth supporting. With such thoughts and after constant evaluation, I wrote almost identical letters to all the concerned persons. I also compiled a note on the situation of Mehandi Ratta to help them understand his position. The note and the letters written are being reproduced below. I also drafted the letter that was eventually sent to the prime minister.
I can end the above story by simply saying, ‘I found them all insensitive to the issues that would agitate any other person.’ Justice H. S. Bedi ignored my letter, though I had several reasons besides the association mentioned above, to expect him to respond. I never received even acknowledgment from him. The same remarks sufficiently cover my experience of writing to M. S. Gill and to Tarlochan Singh MP. They too did not respond. I suppose they have arrived where they hoped to and now are enjoying well-deserved rest on their ‘thrones.’ I feel guilty for having tried to disturb their peaceful slumber.
Dr. Manmohan Singh responded. His assistant made certain enquiries from Paramjit Singh Sarna, as he later told me. Sarna appears to have become unnerved and told him, ‘I know nothing about it except that an ‘intellectual friend’ has passed on the case to me.’ It was signal enough that he did not mean to be taken seriously. If Sarna had been a better advocate for right causes, the community he represents would have been a lot better in every way. I suppose we get the leaders we deserve. (Lorai dakh bijoria kikkar beejai jat, hande unn kataida paindha lorai patt, says the scripture. ‘The farmer sows an acacia (kikkar) tree and expects it to yield good quality grapes; the weaver weaves used wool and hopes it will turn into silk’).
I spent some sleepless nights as I had no answer to satisfy my friend Shumer Lal Sharma.
Meanwhile, K. G. Balakrishnan retired and was accommodated as the president, ironically, of the National Human Rights Commission. With God above and Manmohan Singh below, it appeared to be a new beginning with ample opportunities for this man of this world.
One of the immutable laws of nature is that nemesis does catch up with everyone, including the high and the mighty. Mehandi Ratta, must have been satisfied to read in the Press and hear all over the visual media that K. G. Balakrishnan finally reaped what he had sown. It is when this controversy blew up that we came to know a small fraction of what he had actually sown. Three members of his family are being investigated for possessing assets disproportionate to their known sources of income. Broad hints were dropped that they had made their money in the two odd years when K. G. was the chief justice of India (CJI). One of his sons-in-law had to resign from his political position because his outfit could not be seen to be tolerating a corrupt person – not once he was exposed. His brother and another son-in-law are under investigation for corrupt practices. It was also revealed that one of the most corrupt central ministers, A. Raja (who swindled hundreds of millions in the recently revealed 2G Spectrum scam and is now in custody), tried to influence a judge of the Tamil Nadu high court. As it now transpires, it was not without K. G.’s blessings, for the matter was reported to him as CJI and he chose to remain silent. When asked about it he, to his eternal shame, lied publicly. Some of the most honourable retired judges who were in the know of facts, testified to them through the Media. At the time of writing pressure is mounting upon him to resign from the post he no more deserves to occupy. He is equally shamelessly resisting the pressure strictly in accordance with Newton’s third law of motion.
On seeing what is now happening, some of us, the incorrigible optimists, feel somewhat better and find slight justification for the hope that there will be some improvement at least in the distant future.


Honourable Punjab and Haryana High Court had recommended the names of four District and Sessons Judges for elevation to the High Court as judges. The names were:

1). Mahinderpal L. R., Punjab
2). Harbans Lal, District and Sesions Judge, Ludhiana
3). Sham Sunder, District and Sesions Judge, Vigilance, Punjab
4). B. S. Mehandi Ratta, District and Sessions Judge, Chandigarh

A news item has appeared in the Punjab Kesri dated 3-9-2007 (p. 3), that the name of Mehandi Ratta has been dropped as he is to retire in the near future. It has also been mentioned that there is nothing against Mehandi Ratta except for the shortness of his service tenure. Another news item published at page 2 of the same newspaper is that the Honourable Supreme Court would hear a matter against Honourable Chief Justice of India for making an ad hoc judge of Madras High Court, a permanent judge of the same court without following the procedure prescribed by law. Dropping the name of Mehandi Ratta falls in the same category of irregularity.
The vacancy against which the name of Mehandi Ratta was recommended occurred on 14-2-2007, that is, the date of superannuation of Justice Baldev Singh. The date of superannuation of Mehandi Ratta is is 31-3-2008. Had he too been elevated in September 2007, he would have served for two years and six months. This term was not considered short in the case of Justice Surinder Singh Grewal who was elevated on 2-7-2002 and served up to 14-2-2007, that is two years three months and ten days. There was more than three years tenure available to Mehandi Ratta on the date of the post falling vacant on 14-2-2007.
The matter is not as simple as it has been made to appear.
Had the name of Mehandi Ratta been cleared his occupancy would not have fallen vacant until 22-3-2010. In the meantime, there would have been only two vacancies in consequence of the retirement of Justice Somnath Aggarwal who retires on 30-9-2007 and Justice M. M. Aggarwal who retires on 19-1-2008. Against these vacancies, K. C. Puri, District and Seeions Judge, Amritsar and Ms Sabina, District and Seeions Judge, Bhatinda, would have been recommended in the normal course.
The next person due for promotion is Zora Singh who retires on 31-3-2010. If the post vacated by Justice Baldev Singh had not been kept vacant as it is now, there would have been no superannuation in the services category until September 2009. In these circumstances, the elevation of Zora Singh would have been delayed by at least 20 months. In consequence he would have been hit by the formula of ‘short term in office’ and could not have been elevated to the High Court.
The right of an honest and hardworking judicial officer belonging to a much discriminated Sikh minority, has been denied only to ensure the elevation of a judicial officer belonging to the Dalit community. Nobody would resent the elevation of a Dalit as besides being the state policy it is only proper to make amends for the disabilities that the Dalits suffered in the past by empowering them now.
This empowerment must not be done at the cost of the Sikh minority as the Sikhs have been in the forefront of empowering the Dalits and the Sikh religion has created no disabilities for the Dalits.
It is especially deplorable that this has been done by employing base stratagem. This is highly unbecoming of the Honourable Chief Justice of India. It also raises a general question of what kind of justice can the ordinary citizen expect from him who sits in the highest seat of justice, in the seat of God Himself, in a manner of speaking and is not able to do justice to fellow judges?
Will the Honourable President of India, the Honourable Prime Minister of India and the Honourable Judges of the Supreme Court of India, deem it worthwhile to intervene and do justice?

From: Gurtej Singh,
House No. 742, Sector 8,
Chandigarh- 160009

To: Sardar H. S. Bedi,
Honourable Judge,
Supreme Court of India,
New Delhi

September 17, 2007

My dear Justice Harjit Singh Bedi,

Please take the trouble of reading the accompanying note.

I do not know anything about the procedures of the Supreme Court of India. I do not know what can be done. I am sure most of the Honourable Judges, your brothers on the bench, would be interested in knowing what is happening under their very noses.

As an unpaid servant of the Sikh people, I consider it my duty to bring the injustice done to B. S. Mehandi Ratta to your kind notice with the fond hope that something can be done.

I am also separately approaching the Prime Minister of India, through a common friend. I hope he will be as helpful as some of his predecessors were.

With sincerest regards,

Yours sincerely,

(Gurtej Singh)

Dear Sardar Manmohan Singh ji,

Kindly read the accompanying note.

It is clear that Sardar Mehandi Ratta has been very roughly treated by the Chief Justice of India. An honest man devoted to dispensing justice throughout his life expects to be justly treated at the very end of his career. Those who deny justice to such people, and hurt the feelings of a whole community in the process forfeit the right to be treated as gentlemen and should be accordingly dealt with.

I hope it will be possible for Your Excellency to find ways and means of ensuring his just reward to Sardar B. S. Mehandi Ratta and thereby to assuage the hurt feeling of the entire Sikh people.

I request you to kindly grant a personal hearing to Sardar Mehandi Ratta at your earliest convenience. It will be a matter of immense satisfaction to him that he has poured his woes into the most sympathetic ears of the most considerate executive head that India has ever had.

With regards and best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

(Paramjit Singh Sarna)

From: Gurtej Singh, To: S. M. S. Gill MP
House No. 742, Sector 8, Rajya Sabha
Chandigarh- 160009 New Delhi

September 22, 2007

Please take the trouble of reading the accompanying note.

I do not know anything about the procedures of the Supreme Court of India. I do not know what can be done. I am however certain that a public spirited and resourceful person like you would be able to find a way in which justice can be done.

I have always believed you to be a person interested in justice and fair-play. Someone like me who has no means of intervening in such matters, can only bring gross injustice done to honest people to the notice of your kind of a person. I seek to draw your attention to the injustice done to B. S. Mehandi Ratta with the fond hope that you will be able bring up the matter effectively where it can do some good.

I am also separately approaching Sardar Tarlochan Singh MP with the same purpose in view.

Yours sincerely,

(Gurtej Singh)

From: Gurtej Singh, To: S. Tarlochan Singh MP
House No. 742, Sector 8, Rajya Sabha
Chandigarh- 160009 New Delhi

September 22, 2007

Please take the trouble of reading the accompanying note.

I know that as a Chairman of the Minorities’ Commission, you were able to get justice done to many people who otherwise had no means of securing justice. You will agree with me that there is nothing more frustrating for an honest person than to see the deserved reward snatched from his reach by someone with ulterior motives and mean approach. I do not know what can be done. I am however certain that a public spirited and resourceful person like you would be able to find a way in which justice can be done to Mehandi Ratta.

I have always believed you to be a person interested in justice and fair-play. Someone like me who does not know many lovers of justice, has no superior means of intervening in such matters except through the agency of your kind of obliging persons. , can only bring gross injustice done to honest people to the notice of your kind of a person. The gross injustice done to B. S. Mehandi Ratta needs to be undone. I approach you with the fond hope that you will be able bring up the matter effectively where it can have some effect.

I am also separately approaching Sardar M. S. Gill MP with the same purpose in view. A common friend has promised to approach the Prime Minister.

Yours sincerely,

(Gurtej Singh)

[From: Tarian Bhari Changer.]