No matter where you stand in the verdict acquitting Tarun Tejpal, the actions of the government of India on Thursday morning made one thing clear: the political directions in the case come from the highest quarters in the land.
What else might explain that the Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, himself appeared for the State in the urgent appeal the prosecution has filed against the trial court verdict?
Bear in mind that already, the Chief Minister had, within hours of the verdict, vowed to appeal it, without the prosecution or the CM even having received or read a copy of the verdict itself. The SG, it is clear, hasn’t either, the verdict being 527 pages long. The appeals process, it must be remembered, does not exist because one party does not like the verdict. It exists in case there is grave error on the part of the judge in arriving at her conclusion, something that cannot be proclaimed before you have read the verdict in its entirety.
Yet on Thursday morning, the prosecution at the direction of the CM having filed an immediate appeal against the verdict and got an immediate listing in the High Court, the Solicitor General decided to appear to make visible to the judge, clearly, what the government wants.
Setting aside the fact that the pandemic devastation underway in the country that might require the attention of the SG to answer to the life and death appeals of millions of citizens of the country is not by a long shot over, it begs the question, what really is the interest of the Government of India in this case?
It should be noted that the role of the SG is to advise the GOI in matters in which it is interested or to represent the Government in matters of a constitutional nature, or to represent the government when the President of India requires the advise of the Supreme Court of India on crucial matters. It should also be noted that the verdict in the Tejpal case comes after years of regular court proceedings and do not constitute a new and urgent matter demanding the immediate attention of the SG.
Mehta had already appeared against Tejpal in multiple hearings in the Supreme Court of India on every occasion the former editor’s appeals with regards to evidence or charges were heard by the Apex Court. This would have been stark enough. But today’s appearance is in a whole other league.
And given the thousands of activists, protestors, undertrials in jails all over the country unable to have their cases heard, their appeals listed, their basic safety upheld as the pandemic rages in crowded prison cells, the urgent and immediate action on this appeal reinforces what the past months have brutally shown, that the interest of the government of India is not what we might call the interest of its citizens.
For that we need only look at the utter collapse of the vaccination drive, the brazen ongoing construction of the Central Vista, and the SG telling counsel for the Delhi Govt who was pleading for resolution of the devastating oxygen shortage in Delhi just weeks ago, “let us not be a cry baby.”