'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
Debobrat Ghose - Madhya Pradesh serves 'royal' dinner to SC judges, forgets its drought and Vyapam stain
Madhya Pradesh, a
state that almost always figures at the bottom of the country's Human
Development Index table, used lakhs of rupees out of the taxpayers' pockets
to provide 'royal' hospitality to the Supreme Court judges – including the
Chief Justice of India (CJI) – in an event in April; by hosting a gala dinner
in fine silver, and by bestowing expensive gifts upon the judges and their
spouses. That's rather rich for
a state already bearing the stigma of the Vyapam scam – a professional
examination board scam in which impersonators were caught appearing on
behalf of students for a hefty fee, all with the collusion of the officials of
the examination board.
A response to a RTI
query revealed that expenses worth more than a whopping Rs 8 lakh were incurred
in just one evening to host a 'royal' (officially traditional) dinner of 240
VVIP guests — mostly judges and their families, including CJI TS Thakur,
on 14 April in Bhopal.
The dinner was hosted
by the state government on the occasion of a four-day programme — ‘Retreat of
the judges of the Supreme Court’ – organised at the National Judicial Academy
in Bhopal, which was inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee.
A copy of the
information sought under the RTI, accessed by Firstpost, shows
that the principal secretary to Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan issued an official
note stating that, “keeping with the stature of the event, the dinner should be
served in silver crockery.”
According to protocol,
traditionally for any lunch or dinner hosted by the state government, the
arrangements are made by the MP State Tourism Development Corporation Limited
(MPSTDC). But instead, the
official note mentioned that, “since such arrangement are not available with
the MPSTDC, the contract should be given to a reputed private caterer from
Indore, through competitive bidding.”
The response to the
RTI query, made by Bhopal-based activist Ajay Dubey, shows that besides the CJI
and the judges of the Supreme Court, the list of invitees (state guests)
included SC registrar and additional registrar, National Security Advisor Ajit
Doval, Lokayukta of MP PP Naolekar, among other ministers and bureaucrats. As per the copies of
the bills procured through the RTI, about Rs 3.37 lakh was paid for food, Rs
3.57 lakh towards catering and silver crockery, and more than Rs 1 lakh towards
46 pieces of gift items.
“We’re not questioning
the dinner hosted by the MP government but the arbitrary manner in which it was
done. Our democracy is based on the principle of equality, but in this case,
the Supreme Court judges and other guests were treated as royalty. What is the
logic behind serving a government dinner on silver crockery, when there are
scams like Vyapam and a part of the state is reeling from drought. Lakhs
of rupees, which is the taxpayers’ money, was spent on silver crockery and
gifts,” Dubey told Firstpost.
“As per the judicial
ethics, the members of judiciary are not supposed to accept gifts. I don’t
think the SC judges had asked for this kind of treatment or even liked it,”
added Dubey, also a member of Transparency International, an anti-corruption