7th September, 2016, Cuttack: Earlier this week, Justice Indrajit Mahanty of Orissa High Court admitted that he "carries a loan burden for his long-time business outfit", through an opinion piece that was written on his behalf titled "Media sensation at times hits great guys, hurts society" in The Pioneer. (The "loan burden" is a Rs 2.5 crore working-capital loan for his hotel, The Triple C, which was borrowed in 2009 from SBI. Till this day, amounts ranging between one and two lakh rupees are drawn and repaid every month in the name of "Justice Indrajit Mahanty".) The author, clearly adores Justice Mahanty, writes, "As a lawyer, he became too eminent too soon only because of his keen commonsense, command over the English language and the superb manner of making complex Acts simple for judges and clients alike. He drives points home the same way as smart kids do tricycles." The point of the article is that it is acceptable that Justice Indrajit Mahanty has a big business loan to his name, and runs a hotel, because of his love for humanity, and therefore, our article questioning the ethics of his actions is a "terribly misplaced allegation". The author argues, "Yes, there is a loan burden, not a robbery charge. Yes, he ran it to add value by generating employment for many. The only thing people would like to know is whether or not his ‘judicial conduct is appropriate and above board’; whether or not he is selling judgment, and if he has the knowledge and skills to help the suffering humanity."
Is this a reasonable argument?
The implications of a high judge taking a business loan from a bank, and using it to run a hotel, are far-reaching. Although Justice I. Mahanty is only 55 years old, he is already number two in seniority at Orissa High Court. Being the son of well-known Barrister Ranjit Mohanty, he is influential and well-connected in the legal fraternity. In the next 5-10 years, his career track can make him Chief Justice of Orissa HC, a Supreme Court judge and even Chief Justice Of India.
However, The Triple-C Hotel can be need not necessarily be a success story. Experienced businessmen like Vijay Mallya often fail to repay the banks; so, is it totally improbable that a part-time businessman like Indrajit Mahanty may fail to pay back what he owes to State Bank Of India?
What happens if Justice Indrajit Mahanty defaults and the matter goes to Debt Recovery Tribunal?
Does Debt Recovery Tribunal (DRT) or Debt Recovery Appellate Tribunal (DRAT) get jurisdiction over Justice Indrajit Mahanty?How will Justice Mahanty (who may by then be Chief Justice of Orissa High Court, a Supreme Court judge even Chief Justice of India) be an appellant or defendant before DRT or DRAT?
Does Justice Indrajit Mahanty appear before Orissa High Court?Suppose the order of DRAT is further appealed, can Justice Indrajit Mahanty be an appellant or defendant before Orissa High Court? If not, then what is the proper forum to hear the matter?
Can any tribunal or lower court entertain a matter against any judge of the higher judiciary in respect of his private affairs, such as bank loans or hotel business? Will such proceedings strengthen his public image as a judge, or will it damage it? And what will such cases do to the image of the judiciary?
If a high court or supreme court judge is before a lower court or tribunal, what happens to his superior jurisdiction over such lower court or tribunal? Won't this create a constitutional anomaly?
Apologists and admirers of Justice Indrajit Mahanty, please remember that this is not about one man's goodness or integrity, it is about the integrity of our judiciary as a whole.
Cuttack, 2nd September 2016: Justice Indrajit Mahanty became a judge of Orissa High Court in 2006, and he became a hotelier in 2009. Activist Jayanta Das broke the story on 8th August with documentary evidence given by judiciary whistleblowers. Kamyab TV, an Oriya TV channel, held a panel debateon this issue.In our press release issued three days ago, we asked whether it was ethical for any high court judge to be a businessman.
Justice I. Mahanty maintained a stony silence but on his behalf, the management of his hotel, The Triple C, issued a denial in The Indian Expresson the same day as our press release. The Triple C Hotel's press statement contradicts the signed affidavit of Justice I. Mahanty himself, and it actually makes this high court judge's actions look totally mysterious!
MYSTERY #1. The Indian Express story says, "A spokesperson of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt Limited (LGPL), which entered into a 15-year pact with Justice Indrajit Mohanty, clarified that lease/rent agreement for “Triple C” was signed in August, 2007. Chartered Accountant of LGPL R Sharma said possession of the property was handed over to the company in 2009 and it has been running the hotel ever since. LGPL has been paying lease rental for the premises after accounting for the income tax." And later on, it says, "Besides, the accusations that working capital had been availed for running hotel were found to be untrue as neither LGPL nor Justice Mohanty had taken any. Instead, a term loan was secured in 2007 for construction of the building. Application for an additional term loan was made in 2009 which was approved later in the year by State Bank of India."
But this begs the question: Why is Justice Indrajit Mahanty servicing a working capital loan of Rs 2.5 cr from State Bank of India, which he took in his own name in February 2009?Read SBI's loan sanction letter issued on 16th Feb 2009 in the name of Justice Indrajit Mahanty himself (and not in the name of Latest Generation Entertainment Pvt. Ltd.) See below image:
Also, why is Justice I. Mahanty (and not the hotel management company) withdrawing and repaying lakhs of rupees every month? Read the bank statements showing drawals and repayments as recent as May 2015. See below image:
If not from The Triple C Hotel, from what source of income does Justice Indrajit Mahanty pay amounts like Rs 2 lakh every month? And if not for working capital of the hotel, for what purpose does Justice I. Mahanty withdraw lakhs of rupees every month? Will his lordship kindly clarify this?
MYSTERY #2: The Indian Express story says: "Contrary to the allegations that Justice Mohanty got record of rights of the land in 2006, available documents revealed that the land on which the hotel is located was purchased on October 16, 1981 by Barrister Ranjit Mohanty for his son, Justice Mohanty."
In that case, did Justice Indrajit Mahanty tell a lie in his affidavit? Why did he state,"That I have obtained a plot of land by way of Court Decree from the Court of the Subordinate Judge, first Court, Cuttack, in Title Suit no. 297 of 1981" Why didn't he mention anything about purchase of land by his father Barrister Ranjit Mahanty? See below image:
The Indian Express story concludes by saying:"Sharma said the attacks on the hotel are not only baseless but also motivated and have adversely affected its functioning."
Mr Sharma, do you really imagine that any of this is about the hotel? Oh come on, get real! It's not about The Triple C Hotel, and no, it's not about one over-privileged person named Indrajit Mahanty either. This is about the judiciary and its functioning, and the fundamental right of 1.3 billion citizens of India to be served by judges who are genuinely impartial and unbiased.
Mumbai, 30 June 2016: Hundreds of savvy and well-educated flat buyers have purchased "luxurious" flats in RNA Exotica without noticing what their sale-purchase agreements clearly says: that RNA Exotica is actually a large and shabby slum rehabilitation scheme with a tiny island of rich flat-buyers. The rich people's housing project is married and tied to the rehab component in the same undivided compound -- a marriage made in hell! Not just RNA Exotica's sale-purchase agreement, but also project layouts and plans presented to MOEF, give a birds-eye-view of this nightmarish neighbourhood. With clever advertizing, a tight-lipped sales staff, and several clauses in the sale-purchase agreements that forbid investors from asking the right questions, RNA Corp has been consistently misleading its investors for many years. A prospective home-buyer never gets to read the true facts before he is inside the builder's trap!
RNA Exotica is a Apartment and Slum Rehab Project in a single compound, so you can't object to general public and outsiders in your compound. The agreement makes sure that flat-buyers will have no right in future to object to the rehab building and car park constructed adjoining RNA Exotica, in the same compound. This clause tells flat-buyers in no uncertain terms that the public parking being constructed on the rehab building is not available for their cars. Read this on page 13 and this on page 21 of the registered agreement. So, the proud flat purchasers should know from this clause that their building compound is only semi-private, unlike most of the apartment compounds that are completely private.
RNA Corp can construct anything on top of your flats, so keep quiet and mind your business. The agreement gives the builder the unlimited right to build anything on top of the "top floor" flat, and the flat-purchaser must keep mum about it. In other words, the builder can continue to commercially exploit any increase in FSI or any changes in rules, even if it causes great delay, inconvenience and losses to the flat-buyers, and the only thing that they can do is smile and feel privileged about owning a luxury flat in RNA Exotica.
RNA Corp can construct servants' toilets, septic tanks, electric sub-stations, closed garages, etc. etc. anywhere in the compound or in the building, so shut your nose, mouth and ears.The ground plans or floor plans shown in the agreement can and will be extensively changed to suit the builder's requirements, and this is plainly stated in the agreement itself. All kind of noisy, smelly or intrusive structures can and will be constructed in various parts of the building and compound where you live, including the same floor where you live, but you cannot object on any grounds because you have signed on an agreement that ties your hands. Your rights as a flat-buyer are restricted to the premises that you have purchased, and not, as is the case in other building projects, the common amenities.
RNA Corp can and will create third-party rights and entitlements to various parts of your building and compound, including clubhouse and various parts that you may mistakenly consider as your common amenities. Read this point carefully again, and you will see that this clause is not just a routinely-drafted formality, but is cleverly drafted to take away all your legal rights.
RNA Corp can decrease the common areas and facilities in your building, and you waived your right to raise any objections.People book luxury apartments not just because of spacious flats, but because of spacious and well-designed common amenities and facilities. These amenities and common spaces are factored into the price of the flat as "super-built-up area". But, after paying lakhs of rupees up front to book a flat in RNA Exotica, buyers are informed by their registered agreement on page 37 that the common areas cannot be taken for granted, and they have no right to object!
You unknowingly gave a power-of-attorney to RNA Corp to sign legal waivers on your behalf before all government authorities, without even informing you. According to this clause, the developer need not consult you or even inform before making big or small changes in the plans, because he can always sign an indemnity or undertaking on your behalf to tell the government that you are OK with anything that he does!
You have surrendered your right to independently verify title and ownership of the plot of land on which RNA Exotica is built... because agreement says you have already verified it and satisfied yourself! Mr flat-buyer, when you signed on every page of the agreement in the Stamp Duty Registrar's office, you definitely were not looking for tricky clauses like this one. But here is a clause on page 17 and another on page 25 that says that you have already verified the title and satisfied yourself, and now you have agreed not to investigate any further, or raise any objections.
Possession date is deliberately left blank. Therefore, you have no way of holding RNA Corp accountable for delay of several years, although there is technically a clause for delays. Read this clause on page 37 and its continuation on page 39.
RNA Corp can allot you car parking according to their own sweep pleasure, and you cannot object. The builder may allot you a really shitty parking in the basement, podium or stilt, and the builder may sell favourably-positioned parkings to others. You have no right to object. Read this clause on page 41.
So, Mr and Mrs Flat Purchaser, it is only in theory that you bought a luxury apartment in RNA Exotica. Your luxury apartment exists only in pretty advertisements. The fact is, you just bought a 2BHK or 3BHK in a shitty slum rehab neighbourhood overlooking the railway tracks, and you signed up on a document that says that you have no right to keep the people of your neighbourhood and sundry public from accessing your compound... and you have no right to object to this entire scheme of things. The only thing you can say now is, "It was nice being screwed by you, Mr Anil Aggarwal."
Sincere thanks to Sulaiman "Superman" Bhimani (9323642081) for his continuous detective work, which enabled and motivated me to write this article.
Modi came to power unelected. Soon after his becoming Chief Minister of Gujarat, the Gujarat Riots happened. Shamelessly defending the massacres as a righteous "reaction" Modi successfully polarized the majority against the minority to win in 2002.
For the younger readers, who don't remember the Vinash Purush speeches that preceeded the Vikas Purush speeches, here are some excerpts (Apologies for poorly edited video. Will try to replace with better version when I figure out the video editor):
While these speeches can get him elected by a majority just recovering from unrest and not wanting threats, this is not possible to recreate for every election.
Enter APCO - in 2006 - supposedly to promote a vibrant Gujarat (remember India shining in 2004?) but very conveniently in time for the 2007 elections.
The task was to show that Gujarat under Modi had become an ideal state that people worldwide would want to invest in and visit. APCO's advisory council is illustrious.
Of course, this was happening on the state budget. Or as elite economists like to call it, on the Gujarati tax payer's money.
We saw the "Vibrant Gujarat" campaign emerge even more strongly in 2010 and 2011 in time for Gujarat Assembly Elections 2012. Also an election Modi won.
And now here is the strange part. Gujarat Government spent massive amounts of money in 2013 to polish up Gujarat image. Incidentally, the Gujarat image was a key part of Modi's election campaign for the Lok Sabha Elections. Additionally, moving from APCO to Indian PR firms probably allowed money to deliver more as well, now that the formula was established.
One wonders why the Gujarat Government needs PR firms based in Delhi in the run up to the Lok Sabha Elections. Also, the PR firms were not just expected to promote Gujarat, but to ensure positive coverage in News media - and this is in official government documents requesting tenders.
Put together, this is a request for tenders for paid news Nationwide - not even in Gujarat. Now why in the world would Gujarat government want to acquaint people Nationwide of what is happening in Gujarat in the year before National Elections? Particularly when the Chief Minister was to use Gujarat as an advertisement of himself in his National Campaign more than BJP achievements? All pretending to be on some other budget of course - sometimes Gujarat Government, sometimes hiding behind the party being allowed unlimited expenses. Narendra Modi's speeches have constantly referred to the information spread about Gujarat by these paid campaigns as resounding praise for Gujarat (in other words, his leadership) and built his campaign around it. So not only is it use of government funds to undermine the media and fool people into thinking Gujarat gets spoken well more than other states, but also to aid personal and party campaign in National elections.
But wait. It gets better. Here's one from 2012 asking for Facebook 3,00,000 Facebook likes (from 8,000) for the IEC page (which sings virtues of Gujarat under Modi). Remember Modi's popularity boom on the internet? And yes, it wants likes in very specific ways - from Gujarat, target cities of India, target countries worldwide, etc. Page 20 onwards. You're welcome.
These requests for proposals are just a few from the first page of search results.
Quite clearly, there is a boom in advertisement of Gujarat in the build up to National Elections, ON GUJARAT GOVERNMENT FUNDS. The promotion is well beyond the state of Gujarat and the purpose it serves is unclear.
Of course the Gujarat Government has a right to market itself as an investment destination, but the use of this material in Modi's campaigns needs to be reviewed as well, considering the timing and the abundant use of exactly these kinds of services in his campaign.
There are other examples of paid news including the excellent reporting in Caravan Magazine about the right wing influence in Network 18 and a brazen instance of paid news - which ought to be verified by the Election Commission. Surely an individual's budget cannot afford Prime Time TV and still be within limits?
Last year, Vivian Fernandes, who co-wrote Bahl’s book, was dispatched to Gujarat to interview the chief minister, Narendra Modi. A person involved with the production of the interview recalled that Fernandes asked Modi a difficult question about water conservation in Gujarat. Modi’s organisers had asked to see the questions before the interview, and demanded the water conservation question’s removal. When Fernandes sprung it on him anyway, Modi broke away from the camera and glared at a public relations executive in the room. “Why is he talking like this?” the person recalled Modi saying. “Are we not paying for this interview?” The production crew realised that the interview was part of a promotion for Modi. When Bahl heard about the curtailed interview, he reportedly told Fernandes, “We should have a clear line between marketing and editorial.” - See more at: http://www.caravanmagazine.in/reportage/network-effect?page=0,1
It should not be so difficult to verify whether any such interview marked as marketing appeared on TV. And, if the ones that did appear on TV after Modi filed his nomination appear in Modi's accounts. Surely one on one interviews of Prime Ministerial candidate cannot be put on a BJP budget?
CMS Media Labs analysis also shows that Modi got 33.21% of Prime Time coverage on five channels (Aaj Tak, ABP News, Zee News, NDTV 24x7 and CNN IBN) monitored (not including India TV or Times Now - where Modi interviews appeared). Modi received nearly 7.5 times more coverage than Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi during prime time. Kejriwal got about 10.31% of total coverage (much of it criticism), Gandhi got only about 4.33%. In party-wise coverage, BJP had nearly 38% or about 1,507 minutes, while about 1,101 minutes or 27.75% of television news coverage went to Congress.
Additionally, several exposes that showed BJP in bad light - putting up false candidates, seats, votes and more got silenced by media.
Paid news nailed Ashok Chavan. Should Modi be an exception? Election Commission should examine details of the work furnished through hires of such PR firms on Gujarat Government funds and verify that they have not been used for National campaigning by official party and leaders accounts and that Narendra Modi's campaigns do indeed fit the 70 lakh he is legally allowed after all the loopholes or expenses have run out. Manufactured popularity must not subvert the principles of free and fair elections.