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Raj Kumar Makkad (Adv P & H High Court Chandigarh)     06 April 2010

'ONCE A JUDGE, ALWAYS A JUDGE—THIS REGIME SHOULD DISAPPEAR'

WITH THE WOMEN'S RESERVATION BILL PASSED IN THE RAJYA SABHA AND THE RIGHT TO EDUCATION COMING INTO EFFECT, LAW MINISTER VEERAPPA MOILY HAS SUCCESSFULLY DRAFTED UPA II'S LANDMARK LEGISLATIONS. IN AN INTERVIEW WITH THE INDIAN EXPRESS EDITOR-IN-CHIEF SHEKHAR GUPTA ON NDTV 24X7'S WALK THE TALK, MOILY SPOKE ABOUT THE OTHER BILLS IN THE WORKS AND TACKLING JUDICIAL CORRUPTION

 

Shekhar Gupta: Welcome to Walk the Talk. I am Shekhar Gupta and my guest today is one of the most silent and certainly one of the least controversial ministers of this Cabinet and probably one of the busiest and most effective. Veerappa Moily, welcome to Walk the Talk again.

Veerappa Moily: Thank you.

 

Shekhar Gupta: We stand in front of Parliament, where we make laws, and you are busy grappling with a lot of new laws these days.

Veerappa Moily: That's my job. We are in this ministry and we have to draft a new law and then whet it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: It is very tough in India to pass laws.

Veerappa Moily: That's a skill by itself, with a different craft altogether. But I just love it. I've always loved it. That's why we have trained people, because every word counts. Right from my early days in the Karnataka government, I have been very fond of drafting.

 

Shekhar Gupta: There's something very interesting. Every recent law that has been drafted/passed/moved has been controversial, whether it is the Women's Reservation Bill, Right to Education, Nuclear Liability Bill, they've all come through your ministry. Other ministries get caught in controversy, but not yours. What is that special skill?

Veerappa Moily: Administrative ministries want a law to be made in a particular manner. Then we come into the picture of drafting it. The intention has to be very clear from the administrative ministry. Many a time, we ask them, 'what is your intention?'.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So tell us what went on behind the Right to Education Bill. Many people thought this would never get passed. It has been there for a long time.

Veerappa Moily: This is part of a mandate of the Constitution of India. In our 62 years, we couldn't make it so. Even now, more than 50 per cent dropouts are at the level of Class 4, more than 60 per cent at Class 8. This is disastrous. Of course, we have travelled a long way—in 1947, we started with a 16 per cent literacy rate.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But how we define literacy is also ridiculous.

Veerappa Moily: I don't think literacy (rate) reflects the real picture. Literacy means a certain level of education to be conferred on you. That's why, today, we want to make it compulsory from six-14 years of age, to enable them to get educated and make this a great country.

 

Shekhar Gupta: The reason we started this conversation about the Right to Education Act is because you were brought in by the PM when OBC reservation came in suddenly with Mr Arjun Singh. You were brought in to change that into an opportunity instead of a controversy. What you did led to massive expansion of higher education. In 42 years, we had expanded by what—1 or 2 per cent?

Veerappa Moily: Apex education had expanded only 1 per cent. In four years, after my report, it expanded 54 per cent—which is phenomenal—without sacrificing merit and excellence.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And then a lot of money got allocated to these institutions, which had not been done. Is there any such opportunity sitting on the Right to Education Act?

Veerappa Moily: We need to do it. The question is not how many numbers there are in schools, it's the quality. It can be transformed. To be very frank with you, I started an experimental school in 1991, the Mahatma Gandhi Residential High school, in my constituency. I gave preference to the people who scored the least marks, particularly from orphanages, and other destitute people. Within three years, they started scoring not less than 85 per cent in all the exams. This is the potential of these poor students. That kind of quality education has to be given. That has to be backed not only by law but also by real capacity building in terms of building schools, training teachers.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So what should Kapil Sibal or the state governments do to convert this into an opportunity now?

Veerappa Moily: Ages six-14 are very crucial in the life of children. We have the potential. We'll have to convert them into students who will take this education forward. It is quite possible with the right kind of infrastructure and training.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So you don't think it's a hollow law?

Veerappa Moily: No. I'd rather say, forget the rest and concentrate on this.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Because it is also said unkindly by sceptics that UPA will legislate India to heaven and pass a law against bad weather, a law against floods, a law against earthquakes, poverty...

Veerappa Moily: You may recall the record of UPA I. It made the rural employment guarantee scheme a reality. We could provide that kind of money. We've also done many things in the Right to Information Act and it has become a reality. On the nuclear issue, we faced the risk of losing the government, but we dared it.

 

Shekhar Gupta: What will happen with the Nuclear Bill?

Veerappa Moily: I don't think it will have the kind of resistance we faced earlier. This one is to make it a liability and charge it for rehabilitation. It is the need of the hour. When you go in for more nuclear powerhouses, whatever risks it involves have to be covered.

 

Shekhar Gupta: What about the doubts, which I don't share, about a country which has suffered from Bhopal—that we are giving too easy a way out to people who will be running nuclear plants here?

Veerappa Moily: Bhopal happened at a time when environmental science and technology was not developed. For any industry to be established, proper technology should be in place.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So this, as critics say, is not a Bill to please the Americans?

Veerappa Moily: No. It is to please India. It is dangerous to have this kind of industry and technology without particular safeguards. This is like providing a fort for protection.

 

Shekhar Gupta: I have not seen any other Congressman defend this Bill as passionately as you are doing. Why is this so?

Veerappa Moily: Because I understand. When you want to have a big expansion on a goal like this—see, ultimately the answer to power shortage is nuclear power, whether any body likes it or not... this has happened in France.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Could your party have done more homework on this? There's opposition within the party. Now it looks silly, it's been sent to the standing committee.

Veerappa Moily: It has to go to the standing committee. They have to discuss it. This is a procedure of a parliamentary democracy. Let the people understand what it means.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But why was it not moved in the last session?

Veerappa Moily: Because there were apprehensions. The House had an insight. I think apprehensions have to be cleared, we need to explain to people. If there's any improvement needed, we'll do it. We don't want any Bill to be discussed in isolation of public opinion.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Do you see the Bill passing now?

Veerappa Moily: If this Bill goes to the parliamentary standing committee, it'll take another nine months.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Then we don't see it passing maybe till the end of 2011?

Veerappa Moily: It can be passed. Could take six-nine months, depending upon the committee.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Maybe monsoon session next year. You have no regrets that the Bill has had to be delayed?

Veerappa Moily: No, it has to be cleared because our expansion programme—particularly the nuclear sector—will be held up.

 

Shekhar Gupta: The other Bill in the works, the Judicial Accountability Bill—I believe you've now taken the higher judiciary's concerns into account.

Veerappa Moily: We have only the Judicial Enquiry Act, 1968, which provides only for impeachment, an extreme punishment.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And almost impossible to administer.

Veerappa Moily: Not a single judge was punished under it. That means it is ineffective. We had to add a lot of teeth to it. I decided there are some values, virtues and standards to be maintained by judges. Standards of accountability will be incorporated in this law, which will become enforceable. The next question will be the punishment. I have provided for graded punishment. This is a revolutionary step when it comes into play. A day will come when not a single tainted advocate or judge can become a high court judge. Or, he can't be promoted. It won't just minimise corruption in the judiciary but also, the perception of corruption will be removed.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But have you got the agreement of the higher judiciary on this Bill now?

Veerappa Moily: I don't confront the issue, I'll have an understanding. It is about the standards of accountability of judges, which they have been pronouncing in judgments of the Supreme Court. This is to practically codify that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: I know you don't confront them in public but you've sent back more judges' appointments than three law ministers before you. You've sent back almost half the appointments.

Veerappa Moily: This is again in the best interests. I've sent back these proposals quoting lacunae. We don't want people with doubtful integrity to be judges. Once a judge, always a judge—this regime should also disappear. A judge has to maintain his integrity throughout.

 

Shekhar Gupta: The judges' collegium for appointment to high courts and to the Supreme Court has accepted quite a few of your doubts. What is the strike rate? If you send 10 back, on how many cases do they accept your doubts?

Veerappa Moily: It is a secret between us, we don't discuss it. The judiciary is interested in reform and maintaining standards of accountability, it responds to the norms of integrity which are required by the public and also by them.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Many such appointments, then, are being withheld. Is that not leading to shortage or delays in posts being filled up?

Veerappa Moily: No. We're evolving a system in which I'd like to see that within six months from today, all the vacancies should be filled up. We are working out certain parameters of a methodology in consultation with the judiciary.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And what about other reforms, like in appellate courts?

Veerappa Moily: The debate is open. The Law Commission has given recommendations to open law benches all over. I agree with the Chief Justice of India that this isn't a good idea and shouldn't be done. Maybe we can think of opening up the courts of appeal, particularly for criminal and civil cases, at a regional level. This is only an idea and is in practice in the US, the UK and many other countries. With this, the Supreme Court can concentrate on the Constitution and interpreting the law. We can also thin down many litigations.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But you avoid confronting the judges.

Veerappa Moily: What I feel from my experience as a law minister at the state level...

 

Shekhar Gupta: And as founder of the National Law School of India...

Veerappa Moily: Yes... confrontation isn't going to take us anywhere. There is a willing judiciary to reform itself.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Is there a willing political class that doesn't want to interfere and will let the judiciary be free?

Veerappa Moily: Yes. The independence of the judiciary shouldn't be interfered with at any cost. That is a sacred duty, which the executive should maintain.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Coming back to the laws, now there's one more law in the works, the Foreign Universities Bill.

Veerappa Moily: I think that Bill has been misunderstood. There are already collaborations made between Indian and foreign universities. We need to do a lot of educating on this. My friend Kapil will do that.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So a lot of things are happening surreptitiously?

Veerappa Moily: Yes. Instead of interfering with the education sector, we are interested in putting appropriate and very strict regulations in place. Whatever you do, you agree to do it within a proper regulational framework. And that is what we intend to do: to maintain the quality of education by an accreditation law. Medical colleges, deemed universities—there is a big rot.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And this is a step in the direction to clear that rot?

Veerappa Moily: Yes. And also maintaining standards. We must have in this country, world class education, particularly, higher education: whether in the legal, medical or engineering field. Students who come out from the Law School University, for example, are first-class students who can go and make their mark anywhere in the world.

 

Shekhar Gupta: These have become the IITs and IIMs of law.

Veerappa Moily: They get higher salaries than students from the IITs and the IIMs. Now I am getting into the second generation of legal education reform. I am going to have a national consultation on this.

 

Shekhar Gupta: So you are a full supporter of the Foreign Universities Bill.

Veerappa Moily: As conceived today.

 

Shekhar Gupta: And you expect it to pass.

Veerappa Moily: Yes.

 

Shekhar Gupta: You think it's a good idea because it basically regulates what's already there.

Veerappa Moily: Even in information technology, where I could think of Karnataka as the alternative silicon valley of India, I did only two things: I created infrastructure like the IT Park and the electronic city and made IT education accessible to everyone. So with infrastructure and the largest talent pool, the IT industry of Karnataka has captured the international technology of the world. That is what I am going to do with legal education. That is what I want Kapil to do with other higher education.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Regarding the OBC reservation, you were brought in when there was a complicated issue which was about to become a problem. The OBCs got their reservation, nobody was denied seats and our institutions expanded. Did you share notes with Mr Arjun Singh about it? You've known each other for a very long time.

Veerappa Moily: I know him very well, since so many years. I must be thankful to him because he brought in the 93rd Amendment and because of him I got an opportunity to present my report, which has become a part of history.

 

Shekhar Gupta: But he wasn't very happy with the report.

Veerappa Moily: He may have some perception but he accepted my report. Even the Supreme Court upheld my report.

 

Shekhar Gupta: Do you still find time for your creative writing? You just got an award for your Ramayana.

Veerappa Moily: The Moortidevi Award. I am now writing on Draupadi. Sixty per cent of it has been completed. I must tell you, when I complete Draupadi, this will be the most powerful epic poem in a classical style ever written on the work. That's an open challenge. It flows like the Amazon River in my mind—early in the morning, from 5 a.m. to 6-6.30, I can't stop it. That is the passion I have in poetry, particularly on Draupadi. If I don't write five or six pages of Draupadi in the morning, that'll be a very bad day for me. I won't be in a good mood. My literature and my poetry brighten my career and fuel me for the entire day.

 

Shekhar Gupta: We look forward to Draupadi and look forward to more laws. Thank you very much.

Transcribed by Ruchika Talwar

 

 



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 1 Replies

O. Mahalakshmi (Law practiece)     06 April 2010

Very well versed interview.  Right to education will become a fundamental right in short days.   It is very important and turning point to India for development of the country.


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