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The Court Summoned You, Mr Gandhi, Not Parliament

To disrupt Parliament on an issue that involves no larger public interest goes against all democratic norms, and it cannot be justified on any count

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Why is the Grand Old Party using court summons to stall reforms in Parliament? Is the Congress party not aware of the fact that stalling Parliament has caused irreparable loss to the country's exchequer? Why the Congress wants to spoil the country's investor friendly image that the Narendra Modi government has been able to create in the past 18 months? Will Congress supremo Sonia Gandhi's new game plan to invoke Indira Gandhi to fight her legal as well as political battle succeed? Isn't it a conflict of interest if party office bearers are giving loan to company they own? How is it a political vendetta when a high court has given orders against Gandhis? There is no clear-cut answer to these questions at present.

The politically sensitive National Herald case, in a nutshell, is that a political party - Congress - collects funds for political purpose, gets tax exemption but through multiple transactions those funds reportedly have been transferred to a trust and then to a company that is closely held. That company today is owner of real estate, getting lot of rent. Funds collected for a political activity were used for a commercial purpose. Tax exemptions are for political activity.

The Delhi court's dismissal of Gandhis' plea and its observation that "serious imputations smacking of criminality levelled against … (them) need to be properly looked into" have put Congress's first family on a sticky wicket. Given the current political scenario, the Congress has taken to the good old playing the victim approach. The political history of the country has shown that those perceived to be the victims are often pitied and rewarded in the elections. By turning a legal battle into a political storm, the Congress strategy seems to be to kick enough dust to blur the actual facts.

The moot question is: why are the Gandhis scared of facing court? Where is the question of political vendetta when a court finds it appropriate to proceed with the matter? Certainly, neither the trial court nor the high court can be accused of being politically motivated, the first in issuing the summons and the second in upholding it.

"The Congress party has become a subject of ridicule. The Congress leadership needs to understand that the matter has to be fought legally and not politically - and certainly not by blocking the functioning of Parliament at a time when vital Bills of national import are pending approval. The party is blaming it on Prime Minister's Office (PMO) to camouflage the alleged charges. Are they suggesting that the judiciary is influenced by the PMO? Indeed, to speak of political vendetta following a court summons is to cast aspersions on the very independence of the judiciary.The politics of obstructionism will surely boomerang on the Congress as the party has behaved in a most irresponsible manner by disrupting Parliament's proceedings over the issue. The Congress legal luminaries should help the party contest the charges in the court of law and prove the petitioner wrong," observes A K Verma, Kanpur-based political analyst and political science professor at Christ Church College.

Irrespective of party affiliation, politicians have always put personal political survival above larger national interests. Neither Sonia Gandhi nor Rahul Gandhi can be deemed to be above the law. If the Congress Party feels that the issue of summons to the Congress president and vice-president add up to a miscarriage of justice, it would be within its right to seek rectification in higher judicial forums. The case has inevitably acquired political overtones, given that Subramanian Swamy is now a senior BJP leader (he moved the petition as head of the Janata Party) and the case involves the Congress's top leadership. However, only the judiciary can decide whether the Gandhis are guilty or not of breaching the law.

Quite a few media columnists and commentators are of the view that the charge of political vendetta may or may not "stick", but it is not a rocket science to figure out who first subverted national institutions for petty personal and political purpose. To disrupt Parliament on an issue that involves no larger public interest goes against all democratic norms, and it cannot be justified on any count. It is an issue that has to be settled in a court of law, and not in the wider political arena, much less in Parliament.

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