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1

A historic event has taken place in the Supreme Court of India. There will be no independent probe into Judge Brijgopal Harkishan Loya’s death. This is one of the first judgments to come at a time when the Indian Judiciary stands embattled in a manner not seen since Independence. Those quick to point out the Emergency, may do well to reflect, that while Emergency kept our democracy locked and at bay to pander to an autocratic leader, now and here, as we live and speak, work or laze, fight or make love, a dark cloud looms by which democracy and the rule of law are being artfully and systematically subverted. In hindsight, Emergency appears as a blip and our judiciary came out the stronger of it. It rose to the occasion and reclaimed its independence as well as integrity.

This spirit, which the Indian Judiciary showed at what was then the nadir of the Indian democratic experiment in the mid-seventies, is almost dead. This period is historic, not least for the other significant judgments that are being awaited, or for the unprecedented press meeting called by the Supreme Court’s senior-most judges, but for the very foundations that made our country possible in the first place. We are being uprooted like an old banyan tree might be, but we are by and large comatose, and don’t even feel the tremors. Such is the adversity of our collective situation.

Judge Loya died in 2014 but for some time he stood resurrected. Caravan’s reporter Niranjan Takle is an ordinary person, much like you and me, but what he did was extraordinary. For a moment it seemed that God spoke through him, that God could well be a regular reporter, who must resurrect the dead, especially when it seemed that they had not been properly buried.

Amongst its several rebuttals to the petitioners’ arguments, the bench constituted by the Chief Justice of India to decide the matter, is very keen on reprimanding the petitioners for their lack of bonafides and contempt of court. The bench then negates the evidence relied on by the petitioners. But this was not a criminal trial. The writ petitions only sought an independent probe into a critical case that was in fact mocking the very institution of our judiciary.

Judge Loya was a CBI judge entrusted with overseeing the Soharabbudin Sheikh fake encounter case in which the BJP President Amit Shah was an accused. Any reasonable person going by the murky and sordid history of the case, and what followed thereafter, and as it stands to tragically unfold even now, would assume that there is a rat, and it is stinking as hell. Post the furor over the Caravan article the Supreme Court should have in fact taken suo motu cognisance of the case.

One of the time honoured maxims of the law is that justice should not only be done, but must be seen to be done.

The Supreme Court’s rebuttals have already been politically hijacked and can be dissected as well as Mr. Jaitley has sought to do, but it would be more of Machiavellian legalese. Given the divisive and political overtones the case has assumed, with help in no little measure from social media, the polarisation is complete and evident, just as it is for anything now these days. More than polarisation there is fear. Read FEAR.

None of Judge Loya’s family came ahead when they should have, even if it were to simply negate Caravan’s report in open court. The bench too declined to call the family or the judges who said they were with Judge Loya at the time of his death. These being just a couple of inexplicable positions taken by the bench. There was more than enough prima facie material, which the petitioners had brought on record in support of their plea. To reiterate - an independent inquiry is all that they sought. Nobody was going to be hanged for that. One does not need to be a legal scholar or a hotshot lawyer to understand this, or for that matter, the absolute retreat and silence of Judge Loya’s family in the days when the petitions and interventions were being heard.

The bench has also upbraided the petitioners for undermining the judiciary by casting aspersions on those in the bench and on the other judges whose names came up as part of the hearing. Yet the petitions well within the domain of public knowledge fundamentally argued that if the plea for an independent probe is not granted, it would result in an erosion of faith in the judiciary and within it as well, and does not bode well for the lower judiciary.

The tables stand turned and how. The irony is incredible.

In another situation this might seem like a neat sleight of hand, altogether familiar when it comes to political expediency, but now it is simply scary. The Bar and Bench stand divided like never before and the line of division is glaring and aching. Certainly the atmosphere in the Supreme Court has turned noxious. All along, in spite of all the pressures, our judiciary has always shown that it will be the ultimate leveller and a custodian of our rights and dignity. That modicum of faith is fast disappearing.

Judge Loya, who might have been afforded the chance to speak to us through his grave, has been silenced yet again. The questions however will not cease. I often look at his file photos in the news and I always think of him first as a judge and later in any of his filial capacities. Was it not enough that he had sworn to serve the judiciary and through the institution, us, the people of India? His life was exemplary in that regard, and his conduct impeccable, especially when he was assigned to adjudicate the notorious Sohrabbudin case. Do we understand that in failing an upright judge, we have also failed the very institution that is key to our democracy and our constitutional values? It is perhaps the latter that bothers me more and I have a feeling that Judge Loya would have concurred.

There are hundreds of Judge Loyas in our country who have taken the fall in the line of duty when they became a nuisance to the ruling establishment of their time. Judge Loya is certainly not an exception, but his case is. Our judiciary, and we the people of India, were offered a rare opportunity to redeem ourselves had an independent probe been permitted.

We have let that moment pass to our peril.

We stand witness to a new phase of history that has been surely and steadily taking its course, not dissimilar to other previous twisted regimes in the world. In this withering landscape we are adrift and pensive, and for now, our heads must hang in shame.

10

This is just speculation, but drastic changes in the BJP's propaganda seem to indicate that a rollback of demonetisation may happen.

We began with demonetisation being Modi's special, secret project. The BJP and its formidable social media machinery has consistently defended demonetisation in the face of increasingly grave reports of losses and worse, nationwide. Even Modi supporters who are fully aware that the demonetisation is a disaster and little else seem committed to going down with heads held high no matter the cost to themselves or others.

However, unlike the supporters conditioned to sacrifice all for the greater good, there are increasing signs that the BJP would like survival for itself and Modi. There are subtle signs that Modi is increasingly being distanced from the mess and the missing RBI governor, Urjit Patel has manifested out of nowhere as well.

Reading the writing on the wall, I think demonetisation has failed and will soon be rolled back.

Here are the things I noticed.

  • Starting from last week, almost all talk of black money and terror funding and what not died down and the new focus is on a cashless economy - not so surprising since people have to survive the cashless situation created by Modi and given that there are no arrangements for required within a short time, the only alternative is to minimize damage. What likely was expected to be a bonanza for Fintech companies has now turned into the government's lifeline.
  • While the BJP may dismiss losses and deaths suffered by the common man, there are increasing signs (and they were there all through - no idea why BJP didn't expect them) that business losses will be staggering. The last week has brought news of massive layoffs, flight of foreign money and entire fortunes wiped out in the stock market. This sort of pain registers on a party that has basically floated to power on money from such very sources.
  • SBI head Arundhati Bhattacharya (also being considered for a nomination to the World Bank) has been the weather cock on the demonetisation all through to the point where a lot of ignorant citizens probably thought SBI handles national currency and RBI just prints it or something. Statements endorsing the demonetisation, even as the Banker's Association was talking of 11 employees dead in 10 days of work. Parroting the government line on plenty of cash being available even as banks and ATMs ran empty on a daily basis in the organization she heads. Today she demanded that banks should be compensated for the losses they suffered.... because of *cough* "RBI's move".
  • Increasingly, extremely "planted" news points to the RBI and Finance Ministry for the demonetisation. A notable example being (note the language emphasized - this is classic BJP propaganda):
    • Prime Minister Narendra Modi is working “more than ten hours a day” just on ensuring that the 8 November money measures announced by him ensure a smooth landing for the economy rather than turbulence. This despite the fact that the plan actually owed its origin to the Reserve Bank of India and the Ministry of Finance, who persuaded the PM to go forward with an idea which will affect (and has affected) over a billion citizens of this country. Prime Minister Modi showed moral courage in coming forward and accepting ownership of the currency swap scheme announced on 8 November, and has since then publicly backed every twist and turn in that policy by the monetary and fiscal authorities. Senior officials say “Prime Minister Modi was presented with the issue in such a way that turning down the scheme was out of the question”. Through the plan, concerned officials wished to “shield those in high positions in banks across the country from the consequences of the crony-oriented lending that they had been doing, specially since 2006”, the year when Narasimha Rao’s liberalisation policy was fully substituted by the UPA into a faux Nehruvian economic policy that combined Fabian socialism with Wall Street ways. “Officials argued that a windfall of up to Rs 550,000 crore would flow to the banks through the enforced extinguishing of currency notes issued by the RBI, and that this would recapitalise several banks that were in effect bankrupt, thereby allowing them to lend again”. The Prime Minister was assured that “steps would be taken to ensure that the common man suffered minimal discomfort” and that “the informal economy would accelerate its absorption into the formal without jobs being affected”...

      Needless to say, this is the line that will now be taken by the party. Such stories don't reach journalists via anonymous "senior officials" and "sources"by coincidence. So the strategy seems to be to downplay the fact that Modi announced the demonetisation and to present it as something he was reluctant to do but compelled by other forces covering up Congress actions. He himself is hardworking and has citizen interests in mind. Etc. This is a big gamble to play if he people pointed out as real culprits aren't seen to suffer some consequence. Thus, I think Jaitley and Urjit Patel are now the scapegoats. In completely unrelated news, around the same time these developments happened, there was a photo of Amit Shah holding a goat, which I found totally hilarious.

This is a development. RBI is increasingly blamed for the demonetisation and any overflow perhaps to hit Jaitley while Modi is the great humanitarian who reluctantly was compelled to announce it and is now shouldering the responsibility, etc.

This wouldn't happen if the BJP were planning to go through with the demonetisation - it would want to be seen in solidarity with RBI to instill confidence in the success of the demonetisation. Also would be too much risk of the RBI saying inconvenient things that could still nail Modi if demonetisation stress continued.

So my guess is Urjit Patel is the fall guy, Jaitley will be thrown under the bus in some minor way if that is not enough (many say he is too big to be a fall guy), Modi will go scot free after rolling back the demonetisation to save country from these two.