The answer, apparently, is not to turn up for your own defence
Comrade Harkishen Singh Surjeet had no compunctions in denouncing Anupam Kher, actor and former chairman of the censor board as a member of the RSS and therefore, in the current government’s book, unfit for that position.
Kher resigned and sued for libel. But the wily old Comrade did not survive so long in the rough and tumble of Indian politics without knowing a thing or two about India’s legal system. Surjeet repeatedly failed to show up citing, among other reasons, ill-health. The lower court was prevented from deciding in favour of the plaintiff in absentia by those much abused instruments of legal protraction — stay orders from higher courts. Recognising that the legal system was taking him nowhere, Kher is now contemplating dropping the lawsuit entirely.
“This being the sixth time the case is getting adjourned, I am planning to withdraw the case against Singh not out of sympathy towards him or his ill-health”, he told the media outside the court. “Singh is not above law and even I am a busy man and just adjourning the matter will not take us anywhere,” he said.
Earlier, Singh’s lawyer informed Sessions Judge M H Belosay, hearing the case, that the Bombay High Court had stayed the bailable warrants issued against Singh for failing to appear in court despite summons, till May 2. [The Hindu]
Now, it is too much to expect integrity or honourable conduct from the old Comrade, but it is very disturbing that the legal system has so visibly failed to address a very important issue.
Whether or not membership of a religious right-wing organisation disqualifies a person from assuming an important public position is one thing, but allowing denouncements and insinuations to replace the burden of proof is totally another. By allowing Comrade Surjeet’s dilatory tactics to succeed, the judiciary has allowed India to sink into the same class as old-style Communist countries — where an allegation made in the official mouthpiece of the Party was sufficient bury careers and destroy reputations.
Tailpiece: Instead of wasting time debating who is best qualified to be the government-appointed custodian of public morality, it may be worth debating whether there is need for such a custodian at all. Using those scissors on the Censor Board itself is a good way to go.