In a new low that has tormented the gentleman game of cricket in Australia, distraught former Australia cricket captain Steve Smith was in tears as he accepted full responsibility for a ball-tampering scandal that has shaken the sport. Australia has always dominated the game of cricket and remains in news for winning matches against one team or the other. But this time it was in news for entirely different reasons.
                                      In an unprecedented development, Steve Smith and David Warner were stripped from their roles as Captain and Vice-Captain and banned from all international and domestic cricket for a year over their behaviour during the third Test against South Africa in Cape Town. Even opening batsman Cameron Bancroft was suspended for nine months. David Warner was charged by Cricket Australia with developing the plan to use sandpaper to alter the ball to their bowlers advantage and instructing Bancroft to carry it out. Cameron Bancroft was caught tampering with the ball.
                                              In a statement, Cricket Australia announced the sanctions imposed on the three players, who were ordered to leave for home on March 27 midway through the ongoing Test series against South Africa. Following Smith’s and Bancroft’s admission to ball tampering in the third Test, the ICC banned the Australian captain for one Test while the latter was fined 75 percent of his match fee. But a huge public outcry in Australia compelled Cricket Australia to hand a much harsher punishment. The Cricket Australia statement read as follows: “Steve Smith: suspension of 12 months from all international and domestic cricket. David Warner: suspension of 12 months from all international and domestic cricket. Cameron Bancroft: suspension of 9 months from all international and domestic cricket. All three players will, however, be permitted to play club cricket to maintain links with the cricket community.”
                                            Going forward, Cricket Australia while cracking the whip said that Steve Smith and Cameron Bancroft will not be considered for team leadership positions until one year after the end of their ban, while David Warner will never be an option for captaincy role.” It also said that, “Any consideration of future leadership would be conditional on acceptance by fans and the public, form and authority among the playing group. David Warner will not be considered for team leadership positions in the future.” In other words, the chances of David Warner becoming the captain of some future cricket team has been permanently sealed!
                                      Truly speaking, Cricket Australia Chairman David Peever said the rather stringent penalties are a reflection of Australia’s current outrage at the action of the players. Peever while explaining the gravity of the situation said that, “These are significant penalties for professional players and the Board does not impose them lightly.” In the same vein, Peever also expressed optimism saying that, “It is hoped that following a period of suspension, the players will be able to return to playing the game they love and eventually rebuild their careers.”
                                      It must be brought out here that the CEO of Cricket Australia James Sutherland too echoed the sentiment of Peever. He said that, “I am satisfied that the sanctions properly reflect a balance between the need to protect the integrity and reputation of the game and the need to maintain the possibility of redemption for the individuals involved, all of whom have learned difficult lessons through these events.”
                                          In a major turn of events, the Australian cricket team lost a major sponsor and a host of large companies tore up branding deals with individual players as the fallout of a ball-tampering scandal tore into the financial core of the country’s favourite pastime. Fund manager Magellan Financial Group Ltd binned a three-year team naming rights deal which was only seven months old while sports apparel giant ASICS Corp and Commonwealth Bank of Australia joined other firms in dropping players caught in the scandal which has shaken cricket. All this will certainly adversely affect Australian cricket to some extent and it will take quite some time for Australia to come out of it!
                                      Back home, the Committee of Administrators (CoA) on March 28, 2018 banned Steve Smith and David Warner from participating in the 2018 Indian Premier League (IPL). The BCCI, in a press release, said that, “The CoA took cognizance of the developments in the ball tampering incident involving Cricket Australia contracted cricketers – Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft. The CoA, in consultation with IPL Chairman Rajeev Shukla, acting President CK Khanna and acting Secretary Amitabh Choudhary, has decided to ban Smith and Warner with immediate effect from participation in IPL 2018.” The release also added that, “The BCCI hopes that the cricketers participating in the IPL hold the highest regard for the Spirit of Cricket and Code of Conduct for Players and Match Officials.”    
                                        Simply put, Rajeev Shukla who is IPL Chairman on this key issue made it amply clear that, “Cricket Australia has banned Steve Smith and David Warner and we are also barring these two players from this year’s IPL. The replacements will be made available to Rajasthan Royals and Sunrisers Hyderabad. We did not take any decision in haste, it was a well thought out decision.” No doubt, in a double blow for the two players Smith and Warner, they were also barred from this year’s IPL. This came after the Cricket Australia sanctions and their forced stepping down as captains of Rajasthan Royals and Sunrise Hyderabad respectively. The third banned player Cameron Bancroft does not play in the IPL and so he is not affected in any manner by decision of IPL.
                                            As things stand, even an emotional Australia cricket coach Darren Lehmann decided to quit finally and said he was stepping down after this week’s test match against South Africa due to abuse he and his family received over a ball-tampering scandal that has rocked the sport. His voice choking with emotion at a news conference on the eve of the Johannesburg test, the last of the four-match series against arch rivals South Africa, Lehmann said that his decision to quit was tough but voluntary. He said very emotionally that, “My family and I got a lot of abuse over the last week. Speaking to my family, it’s the right time to step away.” Lehmann is himself a burly former Test player known well for his no-nonsense approach on and off the field.
                                      Truth be told, Lehmann conceded that he should take some blame for the aggressive culture that has developed in the Australian team during his team as coach. He said that, “Ultimately I’m responsible for the culture of the team. Been thinking about my position for a while, despite telling media yesterday that I’m not resigning.” The real fault is not of Lehmann but of Australian cricket culture which has developed over the years.
                                          Needless to say, we have seen before our own eyes how Australian cricketers used to start fighting with Indian cricketers on very small pretext but it was Indian players who used to receive the wrong end of the stick always! But now things have changed! The real face of Australian cricketers stands exposed! The Australian players always want to win somehow no matter if some rules have to be broken but earlier media always sided with them but now finally their real face stands exposed completely before the people!    
                                       As it turned out, while being extremely disappointed at the disconcerting ball-tampering episode during the Australia-South Africa third Test in Cape Town that has rocked the cricket world, the Chairman of the ICC Shashank Manohar minced no words in putting forth his candid views that, “Every team wants to win, but players cannot use dubious methods to gain victory.” He also said that, “It is not in the spirit of the game. The ICC has taken a serious note of the events in Cape Town.” It was ICC which first imposed punitive actions on these 3 Australian players and then Cricket Australia too acted!
                                   It is noteworthy that when asked about the ICC’s plan of action, Manohar said that, “The ICC plans to put together a group of former players of impeccable reputation. This new panel will operate under the existing Code of Conduct, but (it) will be free to recommend punitive measures that it may deem fit. The penalty must be such that it deters all cricketers from indulging in such malpractices in future.” Manohar further revealed that, “The ICC would talk to former cricketers – who have been captains of their countries – Allan Border, Shauun Pollock, Anil Kumble, Mahela Jayawardene and Richie Richardson and ascertain their availability to perform the specific role.”
                                   Be it also noted, the ICC’s Code of Conduct for players and match officials have been put in place after consulting the Cricket Committee which actually outlined the classification of offences and punishments and on the Cricket Committee’s guidance, the ICC’s legal team drafted the regulations. This was considered necessary to ensure that errant players don’t take cricket for granted and face punishment for blithely disregarding the rules of the game and bringing disrepute not just for themselves and for their own nation but also for the whole game of cricket which is still held in highest esteem!            
                                        All said and done, the recent undesirable controversy has certainly tarnished the reputation of Australian cricketers. It will take a long time for cricketers of Australia to leave this shameful legacy behind! It is high time and even now it is not too late. They must evolve ways to prevent such unpalatable turn of events in the future on the cricket ground!
                                        In sum, the cricketers of Australia must admit that just winning the game of cricket by hook or crook had become a part of their culture! They were desperate to always somehow win the game! In the process, they gave a short shrift to all rules and regulations by which the cricketers are themselves bound which they cannot disregard under any circumstances!
                                     This is not the gentleman game that you resort to all sorts of tactics to somehow win the game! It will not do them or their country any good rather will tarnish their own image as well as the image of their own nation whom they represent so proudly just like we are seeing currently! They must imbibe some lessons from Indian cricketers who always play by the book and always behave most decently!
                                        Even in the past whenever Indian players had an argument with Australian cricket players they were themselves responsible for misbehaving with Indian players which they never admitted rather blamed Indian players themselves but now the whole world has seen the real face of Australian cricketers! Still it is not too late! A damage control exercise can be undertaken even now!
                                    It goes without saying that they must at least now take it as a compelling wake up call and reform themselves hugely so that they are not again a source of major embarrassment for their ownself as well as for their own country that is Australia! It is a herculean task for them but certainly not impossible! They must give it a try!     
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
It must be stated at the very outset that seven months after declaring the centuries-old practice of instant triple talaq or talaq-e-biddat in which Muslim men divorced their wives by uttering talaq three times in quick succession, the Supreme Court on March 26, 2018 decided to also examine the constitutional validity of much despised and anti-women reprehensible practices in the form of various types of marriages like polygamy, nikah halala, nikah misyar and nikah mutah among Muslims and referred the case to a Constitution Bench to adjudication. It is a national shame that Jawaharlal Nehru who was the first Prime Minister of India very rightly decided to ban polygamy and polyandry among Hindus even though Hindus had a tradition to marry many women with no maximum cap imposed like Lord Krishna had 16,108 wives, Dashrath who was father of Lord Ram had 3 wives, Shivaji who created Maratha empire had too many wives and his chief queen was Sai Bai Nimbalkar except for very few exceptions like Lord Ram and similarly women too could marry as many husbands as they liked like Draupadi had five husbands famously known as Pandavas  but no Prime Minister from Nehru to Modi could ever dare to ban polygamy among Muslims even though polyandry is not permitted among Muslims. One can understand that Nehru didn’t want to hurt Muslims as they were reeling from the fresh wounds of partition but what about all other Prime Ministers who followed him till now including incumbent Narendra Modi who keeps taking potshots at Nehru but even after completing 4 years in office has never summoned the courage to ban polygamy among Muslims which is a derogatory malpractice which considerably reduces the pride of women and status! The affected Muslim women had no option but to approach court as last refuge as all governments from 1947 to 2018 have failed them miserably by setting aside all deplorable practices which downgraded women and subjected them to all forms of repression!  
                                              Nor has Modi summoned the courage to create a high court bench in any of the 75 districts of UP even though Nehru created a bench in Lucknow way back in 1948 on July 1 but even after 70 years no PM could summon the courage to create even a single bench in UP which was slammed by former UN Secretary General Ban ki moon as “rape and crime capital” of India! UP has maximum population more than 22 crore, maximum MPs, maximum MLAs, maximum villages more than 1 lakh, maximum towns, maximum PM including Modi, maximum pendency of cases more than 10 lakh whereas other states have less than 2 lakh yet states like Maharashtra, Assam have 4 high court benches, Karnataka has 3 high court benches, Madhya Pradesh has 2 but UP has least only one very near to Allahabad at Lucknow created way back in 1948! Not just this West UP owes more than half of pending cases of UP still has no high court bench even though lawyers of 26 districts went on strike for 6 months for 3 times as in 2001, for 3 to 4 months as in 2014-15, for one month as in 2010 and every Saturday since May 1981 till now still no bench and people have to travel whole night about 700-800 km all the way to Allahabad as there is no bench here! Allahabad High Court is biggest court in whole of Asia and also oldest which completed 150 years in 2016 yet it has just one bench and that too very near to Allahabad at Lucknow and nowhere else!
                                           Why talk about just Modi? Even former PM Mrs Indira Gandhi could not dare summon the courage to create a high court bench in any of the 3 places where Justice Jaswant Singh Commission recommended the creation of high court bench in UP at Agra, Dehradun and Nainital even though on its recommendations benches were created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Jalpaiguri in West Bengal and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal! To change what Nehru could not do is considered very difficult next to impossible!
                                                 This alone explains that status quo continues from 1948 to 2018 in UP and people of Uttarakhand had to agitate for separate state as the people there had to travel thousands of kilometers all the way to Allahabad to attend court hearings and suffer loss of money, time etc but no PM had the guts to do what Nehru couldn’t! West UP still has no high court bench and incumbent PM Modi too watches like a mute spectator!  
                                        As if this was not enough, Article 370 of Constitution was not there originally in Constitution prepared by Dr BR Ambedkar as Ambedkar did not favour it but after his death it was inserted in Constitution not by Constitutional Amendment but in form of Presidential order which could be set aside by any later PM but again no PM summoned the courage to undo what Nehru did! It is this Article 370 that prevents the integration of Jammu and Kashmir with India and forbids Indians from other parts to purchase any land there or settle there yet no PM dared to set it aside including PM Modi whose party right from its inception has opposed it tooth and nail! Even former CJI JS Khehar had questioned special status of J&K when he asked that, “How can one country have two flags, two Constitutions and two sets of laws?” but it is still kicking! Such is the charisma of Nehru!
                                   Article 35A was a provision that had been inserted in the Constitution through a “Presidential Order” in 1954 and it was not ratified by Parliament. There is an option with the Centre to ratify the provision by sending it to Parliament. But it has not been considered yet. It accords special privileges to Jammu and Kashmir citizens and empowers state legislature to frame separate law for state.
                                                     More to the point, Article 35A of the Constitution that envisages special rights and privileges to the “permanent residents” of Jammu and Kashmir is a provision that came into force in 1954 when the President used the powers vested on him by Article 370 to introduce the “Constitution (Application to Jammu and Kashmir) Order 1954”. It must be pointed out here that under the said provision, which appears in the Constitution as an “appendix” and not as an amendment to Article 35, all citizens from other parts of the nation are prohibited from acquiring immovable property in the state of J&K, taking up employment under the state government, availing of the state sponsored scholarship schemes or settling permanently anywhere in the state. Certain provisions deny property rights to a woman who marries a person not a “citizens” of Kashmir. According to the law, women lose rights over property and this also applies to her children. The woman also loses employment opportunities in the state. Is this not worst blatant discrimination but no PM till now including PM Modi has dared to even touch what Nehru brought in! Such is the charisma of Nehru!
                                             Dr BR Ambedkar wanted reservations only for 10 years for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes but again Nehru wanted it to continue much longer! Once again, no PM including Narendra Modi has the courage to abolish reservations even after more than 70 years of independence! Such is the charisma of Nehru that no one can dare to change what he did even after more than 54 years of his death!
                                        Anyway, coming back to the main core issue, a Bench of CJI Dipak Misra and Justices AM Khanwilkar and DY Chandrachud agreed with a plea that validity of the practices needed to be examined in the light of the right to equality and issued notice to the Centre, asking it to make its stand clear on banning them for being violative of constitutional provisions. The court passed the order on a batch of petitions challenging Section 2 of the Muslim Personal Law (Shariat) Application Act, 1937 for recognizing and validating the practice of Nikah Halala, Nikah Mutah and Nikah Misayar as well as polygamy. These forms of Muslim marriages and polygamy had been challenged along with triple talaq before the Supreme Court but the court had left it open for adjudication at a later stage.         
                                                          Senior advocates V Mohan Parasaran, V Shekhar, Sajan Poovayya and lawyer Gopal Sankaranarayanan told the Bench that the Constitution Bench which declared triple talaq invalid had not looked into the other practices whose legality have also been questioned. They contended that the prevalent practices of polygamy, Nikah Halala, Nikah Mutah and Nikah Misyar were unconstitutional and should be declared illegal. It is imperative that we understand these practices one by one.
                                                              Polygamy means a husband marrying more than one women. In Nikah Halala, a Muslim woman who wishes to restore her marriage after divorce is required to first marry someone else and consummate the marriage before divorcing him to remarry her previous husband. Nikah Mutah prevalent among Shias means “pleasure marriage” which is a temporary marriage contract in which the duration of the marriage and the mahr must be specified and agreed upon in advance. It is a private contract made in a verbal or written format does not confer any right on the woman. Man have the right in this form of marriage to many any number of woman for a brief period!
                                          Now coming to Nikah Misyar. It is similar to Mutah marriage under which the husband and wife renounce several marital rights such as living together, the wife’s rights to housing and maintenance money and the husband’s right to home-keeping and access. Muslim Personal Law Board, in its affidavit in the triple talaq had termed such practices as “undesirable”. While declaring triple talaq invalid in August 2017, a five-Judge Constitution Bench had thus explained while it kept the focus on the triple talaq issue: “Keeping in view the factual aspect in the present case, as also, the complicated questions that arise for consideration in this case, at the very outset, it was decided to limit the instant consideration to triple talaq. Other questions raised in the connected writ petitions, such as, polygamy and ‘halala’ (and other allied matters) would be dealt with separately.”
                                                      After going through the judgment, the Bench agreed with the submission of the petitioners and asked them to serve copy of the petitions to the Centre so that it could take a stand on the issue when the case would be taken up for consideration. The Bench minced no words in making it absolutely clear that, “Practices of Nikah Halala, Nikah Mutah, Nikah Misyar and polygamy interfere with the right conferred by Article 21 of the Constitution. By considering the woman an object of man’s desire, practices of Nikah Halala, Nikah Mutah, Mikah Misyar and polygamy cause gross affront to the dignity of women.”
                                                                The petition said the Muslim Personal Law allows a man to marry up to four wives, which it said “treats women as men’s chattel, and reduces their status to an object of desire to be possessed by men.” Not just this, men and women from other religions are tempted to convert into Muslim so that they can marry more than one spouse which only serves to vitiate the peaceful harmony among different religions and also population increases more rapidly as we are seeing also! India is on verge of overtaking China in next few years still can we allow such retrograde and discriminatory practices like polygamy and others to continue unabated and flourish in our society?
                                                      Can it be ignored that many Islamic scholars have already said that ‘nikah halala’, ‘nikah mutah’ and nikah misyar’ are forbidden and void in Islam and it’s nothing but religiously sanctioned rape”? Can it be ignored that Prophet Mohammad too favoured monogamy and allowed polygamy only in exceptional cases when it is necessary to support a women but the ground reality is different with polygamy being practiced most rampantly especially in the lower sections of society which only serves to make them more poorer whereas most of the affluent Muslims too now practise monogamy as they understand that sustaining many women and many children is an unnecessary drain on their pocket? Why then should polygamy not be banned completely? Can it be ignored what the petitioners submitted that giving recognition to talaq-e-bidat, nikah halala and polygamy as a valid form of divorce interferes with the Muslim women’s right to profess and practice her religion under Article 25? Can it be ignored what the petitioners submitted that it also treated women unequal as it is illegal for a married Muslim female to marry a second time during subsistence of first marriage and such second marriage is void?          
                                            Moreover, the petitioners argued that if a man agreed not to marry a second time as per nikahnama, his second marriage is at best a breach of contract but not a ground to make the second marriage void. To this extent, the petitioners even challenged the validity of Dissolution of Muslim Marriages Act 1939 as unconstitutional. Two of the petitioners – Sameena Begum and Nafisa Khan related their ordeal of how their husbands mistreated them and without obtaining divorce, married another woman. Sameena got married in 1999 and had two sons from the wedlock. With time, her husband tortured her to bring more dowry or else threatened to give her talaq. She field a complaint of dowry harassment under IPC Section 498A.
                                            Nafisa too similarly underwent torture and harassment in marriage and was left remediless under law when her husband married another woman without giving her divorce. She also had no recourse to filing a criminal case under IPC Section 494 that punishes a man for bigamy. Left completely remediless due to polygamy and triple talaq getting the legal cover under Muslim personal law, both petitioners demanded polygamy, nikah halala and triple talaq as offences under Sections 498A (dowry harassment), 375 (rape) and 494 (bigamy) of IPC. The other two petitions filed by BJPleader and lawyer Ashwini Upadhyay and lawyer Moulim Mohsin Bin Hussein attacked the validity of the nikah halala and polygamy on the same logic as applied by the Supreme Court in Shayyara Bano, since the practices treat Muslim women unfairly as chattels and unequal.
                                                             Poovaiya who argued for the petitioner Hussein also urged the court to consider the validity of nikah misiyar and nikah muta which allow Muslim men to have a one-night stand marriage or a marriage of pleasure. Can on earth there be anything more shameful than this? Yet it is continuing till now because as Nehru didn’t scrap it, no PM including  present PM Modi bothered to ever scrap it! Nikah Misiyar is prevalent among Sunni Muslims and Nikah Mutah among Shia Muslims!
                                                               To conclude, all such retrograde, regressive and reprehensible malpractices which downgrade women and make her a soft target for being abused, tortured and victimised must be abolished immediately but what a tragedy that no PM from Nehru to Modi could summon the courage to abolish it even though Nehru abolished polygamy and polyandry among Hindus for which Hindus must really adore him always for this was the biggest favour done by Nehru on Hindus which most do also as this has ensured the population of Hindus under check which is necessary for the rapid growth of our nation! But why no similar landmark step taken in case of Muslims also? Why just because Nehru didn’t do this, no other PM dared do this? Nehru had the compulsion of “fresh partition wounds suffered by Muslims” and he didn’t want to further anger them but what about all other PM who followed him right from Lal Bahadur Shastri to Narendra Modi who time and again ridicule the legacy of Nehru? Why can’t he change it? For how long this status quo? Another 100 years?
                                               No doubt, the petitions could pave the way for enforcement of a Uniform Civil Code as one of the petitioners argued that Article 44 of the Constitution prescribes that the State shall endeavour to secure for the citizens a Uniform Civil Code throughout the territory of India! But it would still be too early to jump the gun and draw any hasty conclusion! Let’s wait and watch what the Supreme Court decides in this case after examining it from all angles! I am pretty confident that Supreme Court will not disappoint Muslim women and once again just like in Shayyara Bano case will rise up to their high expectations of being the “last bastion of hope and optimism”!      
Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,
s/o Col BPS Sirohi,
A 82, Defence Enclave,
Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,
Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.    
Let me start shaking my pen by first and foremost pointing out most emphatically that India and France have traditionally shared very good equations and chemistry with each other not since last few decades but in last few hundred years. We all know fully well how Tipu Sultan and his father Haider Ali took help from France in boosting their forces and defence more than two hundred years ago! France has always been India’s most trusted ally like Russia but still it has not been given much prominence in media unlike Russia which has enjoyed maximum media publicity in this respect!

                                         As it turned out, the French President Emmanuel Macron paid a state visit to India on March 9 which continued till March 12, 2018. It may be recalled here that the last visit of French President to India was in January 2016 when the President of France had come to India as Chief Guest in the Republic day festival. It may also be recalled here that immediately after Emmanuel Macron became the President of France, India’s PM Narendra Modi had gone to France on a tour in June 2017.

                            Be it noted, PM Modi broke all protocols to receive French President Emmanuel Macron and his wife in the airport. It cannot be downplayed that when India had tested nuclear weapons in 1998, it was France alone among all the European countries which had refused flatly to impose any bilateral sanctions on India! Prime Minister Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron met with each other at Hyderabad House in New Delhi. Both leaders met each other very warmly and vowed to take the cooperation and bilateral relations between the two countries to a new height never witnessed before.

                                            It is most heartening to note that the barbs exchanged between the Opposition parties and the Government over the off-the-shelf purchase of 36 Rafale aircraft had just no impact of any kind on their bilateral talks. Macron was accompanied by a 40-member business delegation to India. Deals worth $ 16 billion were signed. These include a contract for France’s Safran to supply engines to SpiceJet, a water system modernisation project by Suez in Davangere in Karnataka and a contract between Air Liquide and Sterlite.

                                 Truth be told, the French President President Emmanuel Macron minced no words in stating it most explicitly that he considered India its strategic partner in South Asia and wanted to be its partner in Europe. Macron also praised the ‘Make in India’ initiative of PM Modi. Nearly 1000 French companies have invested about $ 7 billion in India till now. French research and development institutions were working in high-tech areas, including space and nuclear programmes.

                                             It is noteworthy that both sides also announced a vision document on cooperation on a number of space-research related issues, including space security. The space agreement is designed to support joint maritime operations as it will help in maritime surveillance for the Indian Ocean region.  The French Development Agency (AFD) is helping India finance a semi high-speed railway line between New Delhi and Chandigarh.

                                            Before proceeding ahead, let us now discuss the 14 agreements/MoUs (Memorandum of Understandings) that have been signed between India and France. It will help us understand better as to what all has been worked out between the two countries that has been inked also. Those 14 pacts or agreements/MoUs that have been signed are as follows: -  

1.  Agreement on the Prevention of Illicit Consumption and Reduction of Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs, Psychotropic Substances and Chemical Precursors and Related Offences. It will also impact the financing of terrorism and therefore is very crucial.

2.  India-France Migration and Mobility Partnership Agreement which will certainly facilitate temporary circular migration based on mobility and encourage return of skills to the home country.

3.  Agreement to facilitate mutual recognition of academic qualifications. This again is very landmark and will help the students of both the countries immensely as recognition enables one to get any job of his/her liking in either India or France.

4.  MoU between Ministry of Railways and SNCF Motilities France on technical cooperation in Railways. This will help deepen the cooperation and focus on high speed and semi-high speed rail; station renovation modernization of current operations and infrastructure; and suburban trains.

5.  Letter of Intent (LoI) for creation of a permanent Indo-French Railways Forum.

6.  Agreement regarding the provision of reciprocal logistics support between their Armed Forces.

7.  MoU on Cooperation in the field of Environment.

8.  Agreement in the field of Sustainable Urban Development to allow exchange of information on smart city development, development of urban mass transportation systems, urban settlements and utilities.

9.  MoU between National Institute of Solar Energy (NISE), Ministry of New & Renewable Energy and the National Solar Energy Institute (INES), France. Both countries to work on projects in International Solar Alliance (ISA) member countries in areas of solar energy through transfer of technology and collaborative activities.

10.                   Industrial Way Forward Agreement between Nuclear Power Corporation of India Ltd and EDF France. It prescribes a way forward for the proper implementation of the Jaitapur nuclear power project.

11.                   Agreement between ISRO and Central National D’ Etudes Spatiales (CNES) for pre-formulation studies of a Maritime Awareness Mission. To provide end-to-end solution for detection, identification and monitoring of vessels in the regions of interest for France and India.

12.                   Credit Facility Agreement of Euros 100 million for funding of the Smart City Projects through a Challenge Process.

13.                   Bilateral agreement on cooperation in the matter of Hydrography and Maritime Cartography. To encourage cooperation in the field of hydrography, nautical documentation and maritime safety information.

14.                   Agreement regarding the exchange and reciprocal protection of classified or protected information.

                                 While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me also inform them that the focus of the visit was as much on building a personal rapport between the two leaders as it is on stepping up the Indo-French defence and security partnership. Modi spoke about the warm reception Macron gave him when he travelled to Paris last year. Modi said that, “You welcomed me in Paris last year with an open heart and a lot of warmth. I am happy that I have got an opportunity to welcome you in India.”

                                    For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that Macron was just 39 when he became President in 2017, making him the youngest French leader since Napolean Bonaparte. He spoke about his “very good chemistry” with Modi. PM Modi also said confidently after his meeting with Macron that, “I consider today’s agreement of the reciprocal logistics support between our armies as a golden step in the history of our close defence cooperation”.   

                              Truly speaking, while underlining the “long standing relationship” between France and India, human resource development minister Prakash Javadekar termed the “mutual recognition of educational qualifications” between France and India as historic. He said that, “It is historic…for the first time, a government to government MoU (memorandum of understanding) has been signed to mutually recognize academic qualifications. It will help the student community. There used to be only bilateral arrangements between institutions to institutions.” He also expressed hope that, “I hope more and more countries, like France, will come forward for mutual recognition of academic qualifications so that the mobility of students and professionals improves.”

                                          Of course, Frederique Vidal who is French Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation too said that France is eager to attract more Indian students to study there. In 2017, 5,000 Indian students went to France to pursue higher education which is a 60% jump over the previous year. France wishes to take this number to 10,000 by 2020. If France succeeds in attracting that many students, it may be placed among top five countries for Indian students seeking foreign degrees and may become a key challenger to UK as an abroad educational destination for Indians. I have not even an iota of doubt in my mind that France is more trustworthy than UK which is known always to harbour Indian absconders like Lalit Modi, Vijay Mallya etc and is always known for its biased approach against India which is not hidden from anyone!

                           Needless to say, the move to mutually recognize educational qualifications between India and France will also allow better professional mobility meaning more doctors, lawyers, researchers, scientists and other skilled professionals from both the countries may move to practice or stay in each other countries. Both countries realize the tremendous benefits from it. This alone explains why it has been made operational now finally! No doubt, this is one of the best “icing on the cake” that has emerged from Macron’s visit to India.

                                To say the least, the visit by Macron to India ensured that both India and France joined hands in ensuring freedom of navigation in the Indo-Pacific region. Both sides also announced a new phase of cooperation in space security focused on the maritime domain and a fresh logistics agreement that will allow their defence forces to closely cooperate on mutually agreed operations. PM Narendra Modi while announcing the initiative that will open up vast French maritime domain in the Indian Ocean region to India said that, “Whether it is the environment or maritime security, or marine resources, or the freedom of navigation and over flight, we are committed to strengthening our cooperation in all these areas. And, therefore, today, we are releasing a Joint Strategic Vision for our cooperation in the Indian Ocean area.”

                                      Simply put, a joint statement issued at the end of the official talks said that, “The Joint Strategic Vision of India-France Cooperation in the Indian Ocean Region stated that India and France share common concerns on freedom of navigation in the region and will tackle challenges to over-flight and threat of weapons of mass destruction. The agreement has a vast scope stretching from ‘countering maritime terrorism and piracy’ to ‘building maritime domain awareness’.” The statement also said that it would support “greater coordination in regional/international for a in the region”. This is the second major maritime agreement India has signed in the last six months following the Quadrilateral agreement with Australia, Japan and the US in October 2017.

                                           It must be underscored that the agreement provides for the reciprocal provision of logistics support, supplies and services between the armed forces of the two countries during authorized port visits, joint exercises, joint training, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief efforts. Under the terms of the agreement, Indian warships will have access to French naval bases in the Indian Ocean. The agreement will help India expand its footprint in the region. From Reunion Island to the naval base Heron in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa, to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates. France has key naval bases.

                                Bluntly put, while presenting the French perspective on maritime and military cooperation, French President Emmanuel Macron in an apparent reference to China said that, “The Pacific and the Indian Oceans cannot become zones for hegemonic power and we are, therefore, building a strategic partnership. The same is true for our defence cooperation signed a while ago.” The logistics support agreement is likely to extend both Indian and French ability to respond to common challenges. A statement said categorically that, “The agreement seeks to extend logistical support on reciprocal access to respective facilities for Indian and French armed forces.” Sources indicate that while reviewing the ongoing military contracts and discussing the commissioning of INS Kalvari which is the first Scorpene submarine made in India, Macron suggested extending the bilateral contract for the supply of more of these conventional submarines.    

                                       It must be underlined here that over 90% of India’s trade by volume and 68% of trade by value is via the Indian Ocean, where China has been wooing littoral states in an attempt to increase its strategic footprint. The joint strategic vision for Indian Ocean calls for France and India committing “to utilizing every opportunity of their naval ships calling at each other’s ports for holding passage exercises. Absolutely right!

                             Going forward, the vision document said that, “In order to widen and deepen strategic naval cooperation, India and France will be open to inviting strategic partner countries in the region to participate in Indo-French exercises”. The vision document also while explaining the two countries mutual interest in the region said that, “India occupies a central position in the Indo-Pacific, given its coastline of 7500 kms, more than 1,380 islands and two million square km of Exclusive Economic Zone. It plays a pivotal role for the peace, security and prosperity of the region. France, a State of the Indian Ocean rim, is an important player in this region.”                         

                                       It cannot be lost on us that while pointing out the political acceptability of France across the Indian political spectrum and the historic role it has played in providing sensitive technologies for both space and military programmes, a senior military scientist said that, “These agreements will bring back the momentum”.  There can be no denying it. The two sides also signed a new protocol for the exchange of classified information between the two sides.  

                                        We also cannot be oblivious to the glaring fact that the two sides also agreed on the need for early conclusion of the ongoing discussions between DRDO and French firm Safran for combat engines for the indigenous Tejas fighters. They presently fly on GE manufactured American engines. The military scientist pointed out that, “If the M88 engines of Safran are to be produced in India with full ToT (transfer of technology) that might solve a lot of our concerns regarding the Tejas programme.” So India has a lot to gain by the agreement between both the countries!     

                                       Full attention must also be paid to the glaring fact that while marking the 20th anniversary of their strategic partnership, India and France stepped up their engagement to a new level by swiftly concluding the reciprocal logistics support between their armed forces. In contrast, India and the US took almost 15 years and still could conclude a curtailed version of it. A senior military officer said that, “India’s agreement with France does not suffer from the political sensitivities the way our agreement with the US does.”   

                                       It must be added here that France is the 9th biggest foreign investor in India. France has invested about $ 6 billion from 2000 to 2016. After that from April 2016 to March 2017 there was a $ 11 billion bilateral business between both the countries. About 1000 French companies are in India and about 120 Indian companies have invested in France. Indian companies have invested about Rs 8500 crore and given jobs to 7000 people. About 1.1 lakh people of Indian origin are employed in France.              

                                  It must be highlighted here that as victims of major terror attacks, both India and France on March 10 urged the international community to do more to stem terrorism financing even as the two nations resolved to launch a new cooperation effort to prevent and fight radicalization, particularly online. In their joint statement, PM Narendra Modi and French President Emmanuel Macron called upon all the countries to work towards rooting out terrorist safe havens and infrastructure, disrupting terrorist networks, ands halting cross-border movement of terrorists like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Jaish-e-Mohammed, Hizbul Mujahideen, Lashkar-e-Tayyeba, as well as other terrorist groups threatening peace in South Asia and the Sahel region.        

                              Going two steps forward, both the leaders also said that in addition to pursuing “excellent cooperation” between the elite intervention forces – India’s National Security Guards and its French counterpart GIGN – and the investigation agencies, they will enhance cooperation between the Indian and French counter-terrorism agencies. The two sides have also decided to intensify cooperation in cyber security and intelligence sharing.

                                     Most of all, the two sides agreed to strengthen counter-terrorism in multilateral for a such as UN, GCTF, FATF andG20 and called upon all United Nations member countries to implement the UNSC Resolution 1267 and other relevant resolutions designating terrorist entities. The leaders also agreed to work together on early adoption of the Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism (CCIT) in the UN. Both sides fully and firmly reiterated their call for a global fight against radicalization, terrorism and safe havens for terrorists!          

                                     To put things in perspective, with regard to civil nuclear cooperation, an agreement for which was signed in 2008, the two leaders expressed satisfaction over the conclusion of the Industrial Way Forward Agreement between India’s NPCIL and French EDF for the implementation of six nuclear power reactor units at Jaitapur in Maharashtra. The two leaders reiterated the goal of commencing works at the Jaitapur site by the end of 2018 and encouraged NPCIL and EDF to accelerate the contractual discussions in that respect. Once installed, the Jaitapur project will be the largest nuclear power plant in the world, with a total capacity of 9.6 GW. One of the major sticking points of the project was India’s rules and regulations on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damages applicable to the Jaitapur project on which the two sides have now reached an understanding.    

                                     As for cooperation in the field of Space, the two sides released a “Joint Vision” document which spells out the concrete areas of future cooperation in this area. Modi and Macron acknowledged, in particular, the ongoing cooperation between their space agencies to realize the third joint satellite mission – Trishna meant for eco-system stress and water use monitoring and also accommodation of French instrument on India’s OCEANSAT-3 satellite. Both sides reiterated to extend it even further.

                                       With regard to cooperation in educational, science and technology, cultural and people to people exchanges, both Modi and Macron welcomed the signing of a bilateral partnership agreement on migration and mobility which will facilitate student and professional mobility between France and India by simplifying the conditions for entry and long-term stay in the two countries. They underscored the necessity of greater youth exchange programmes for promotion of understanding of each other’s cultures and welcomed the launch of the “France-India Programme for the Future”, a French initiative aimed at fostering youth exchanges. The leaders also encouraged universities to increase the number of student exchanges, with the aim of reaching 10,000 students by 2020.

                                 It is heartening to learn that Modi and Macron also noted the strong upsurge in tourist exchanges between the two countries. A target of one million Indian tourists in France and 3,35,000 French tourists in France and 3,35,000 French tourists in India by 2020 has been set. With an already robust economic partnership between the two countries and growing bilateral trade, the two leaders felt that this momentum should be sustained with the aim of raising trade in goods to 15 billion Euros by 2022. As Strategic Partners, the two countries share converging views on key regional and global issues and continue to consult and coordinate closely with each other on matters of common interest.

                                It is of utmost significance that France which is itself a permanent member of UN Security Council has reaffirmed its support for India’s candidature for the same. Modi not just thanked Macron for this but also for the support that it had lent which led to India’s membership of the Wassenaar Arrangement and support for membership of the Australia Group. Macron also committed France’s support to building consensus among regimes members on the issue of India’s membership of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) to which China had earlier played spoilsport and prevented India’s entry to the elite NSG group. On global issues, the two leaders – Modi and Macron agreed that North Korea’s continued pursuit of nuclear and ballistic missile programmes and its proliferation links poses a grave threat to international peace and security. They both called for the complete, verifiable, irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, which has been endorsed by DPRK. Both sides also stressed the need to hold accountable those who support or have supported DPRK’s nuclear and missile programmes.                  

                                     To sum up, the bilateral relations between India and France are now reaching new heights never witnessed before. Both countries are now working in tandem in different fields. Both sides agreed to create an annual defence dialogue at the ministerial level. The leaders also reiterated their support to the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and shared their commitment to proactively contribute towards the priorities of IORA. India now has reciprocal logistics support deal with two countries of the P-5, after having signed the Logistics Exchange Memorandum of Agreement (LEMOA) with the US in 2016and now with France!  

                                      Striking the right notes, PM Modi very rightly said that, “From the ground to the sky, there is no subject on which India and France are not working together.” Modi added that, “We want our young to know each other’s country, look at each other’s country, understand, work so that thousands of ambassadors are ready for our relationship”. Speaking in the same vein, Macron too reiterated that, “I want to double the number of Indian students coming to France. If you choose France you gain access to Europe”. It is true that although the two sides couldn’t reach a commercial agreement for a French assisted nuclear power plant at Jaitpur in Maharashtra but it is equally true that the two sides signed a pact that prescribes “a way forward for the implementation” of the project. It also cannot be denied that France is building 6 nuclear reactors in India at Jaitpur which was announced by the former French President Francois Hollande.

                                            It will certainly not amount to an exaggeration if I say that France is an ally which is more dependable than any other country and which has steadfastly stood by us through thick and thin! Macron’s landmark visit coupled with signing up of so many agreements and pacts is a clear signal to world powers that India has now a steadfast and committed ally apart from Russia on whom India can always bank upon and who is itself a world super power and a permanent member of UN Security Council who has reiterated unstinted support to India also for a permanent seat in UN Security Council! Before winding up, let me now borrow some words of wisdom put forth by none other than the eminent former Foreign Secretary Kanwal Sibal who rightly pointed out in his enlightening editorial titled “Macron’s visit has been a success on many levels” in Hindustan Times newspaper dated March 14, 2018  that, “The joint statement strongly endorses the nuclear deal with Iran. On Syria, where the positions of the two countries differ, that the two sides were able to craft a suitable paragraph is a drafting achievement. In the context of the Trump’s trade-related broadsides and his decision to impose tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, India and France have reaffirmed the centrality of rules based multilateral trading system. The launching of the International Solar Alliance jointly by Macron and Modi furthers the objectives of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change and forges one more strategic bond  between India and France.”    

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.
It is most heartening to learn that the Centre is very serious on reducing the pendency of cases in all high courts. It is also most heartening to learn that the government will shortly install ‘Justice Clocks’, which is an electronic LED display message board, at each of the 24 high courts to show daily disposal of cases and pendency besides ranking each of these courts. The ‘Justice Clocks’ will be used to create public awareness about disposal and pendency of cases in each of the high courts (HCs) and later in all the subordinate courts.

                                             To put things in perspective, the idea of ‘Justice Clock’ was floated by PM Modi in 2017 to rank the performance of each of the high courts and other courts, create a competition among the courts and also rank them as per performance in disposal of cases. This Modi feels will encourage competition among the courts to work faster so that more cases are disposed of in lesser time and their court tops. This will ensure all courts have a constructive competition amongst themselves to emerge as the winner.

                                      It needs no rocket scientist to conclude that when courts will compete with each other in disposing of cases, the pendency of cases will come down tremendously! Junior law minister PP Chaudhary had recently informed Parliament that a decision had been taken by the government to install ‘Justice Clocks’ in all the high courts. He said that, “The government is planning to install electronic LED display message board systems called Justice Clocks for creation of public awareness about the disposal and pendency of cases and general progress in the justice sector.

                                        While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform them that a model of the Justice Clock was first installed in the justice department of the law ministry last year at its Jaisalmer House in the capital. The clock highlights the citizen-centric services besides providing “information regarding district and subordinate courts which dispose of the highest number of cases pending for various lengths of time such as 0-2 years, 2-5 years and above 10 years. The minister said that, “Installation of similar Justice Clocks was proposed by the department of justice in all the 24 high courts of the country.”

                                  Having said this, let me not shy away from also putting on record my very strong observation that this alone is not going to serve any purpose at all for which it  is meant unless other steps are also taken along with it. The most important step is the landmark recommendation of the 230th report of Law Commission of India which recommended establishment of more benches in India in different states. But till now only 2 states have gained from it – Karnataka and Maharashtra. Karnataka earlier had just one bench at Hubli but in 2012 2 more benches were created for Dharwad and Gulbarga for just 4 and 8 districts respectively. Similarly for just 6 districts of Maharashtra which already had 3 benches at Nagpur, Aurangabad and Panaji, a fourth bench was created at Kolhapur. The rest of the states especially the big states like UP, Rajasthan, Bihar, Odisha etc have been left in the cold! Why this raw and most blatant discrimination?        

                             It has been one year since Yogi Adityanath came to power but we don’t see BJP setting up a Bench anywhere not just in West UP but anywhere in UP even though it had promised to set up especially in West UP if it wins power both in Centre and UP! But even after one year of its completion in UP and four years in Centre, it seems determined to not allow just like Congress the creation of even a single high court bench in UP other than the one that already exists at Lucknow knowing fully well that UP has maximum population more than 22 crore as CM Yogi keeps proudly declaring every now and then, maximum pending cases in High Courts more than 10 lakhs, maximum pending cases in lower courts more than 62 lakhs, maximum PM, maximum MPs, maximum MLAs, maximum Mayors, maximum districts, maximum villages more than one lakh, maximum cities, maximum crime, maximum lawlessness which even UN secretary General Ban ki moon had slammed as the “rape and crime capital of India”, maximum riots, maximum Judges, maximum courts and what not still has just one High Court Bench created by our first PM Jawaharlal Nehru way back in 1948 at Lucknow and not anywhere else even 70 years later! This despite the fact that former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee had thundered in Parliament way back in 1986 as Opposition Leader demanding the creation of a High Court Bench in West UP and Yogi Adityanath who is now UP CM also himself thundered while demanding for a High Court Bench at Gorakhpur way back in 1998 right inside Parliament but 20 years later we don’t see any High Court Bench anywhere being created other than the one which Nehru created 70 years ago in 1948 at Lucknow!   

                                            The population of West UP  is more than any other state except UP of which it is itself a part and here too owes for more than half of the pending cases of UP with maximum rapes, gangrapes, killings, communal riots etc all occurring here in West UP as acknowledged by Justice Jaswant Commission and of Bihar and here too areawise West UP with 98,000 square km is more than that of Bihar with 94,000 square km but still it has not even a single Bench and same is the case with Bihar which has no bench even though it is notorious as one of the most lawless state of India! Andaman and Nicobar islands with just 3 lakh population has Bench at Port Blair, Sikkim with just 6 lakh population has High Court,  Goa with just 14 lakh population has a Bench at Panaji, Manipur, Meghalaya and Tripura with 27, 28 and29 lakh population have High Courts but West UP with more than 9 crore population has not even a single Bench not even a circuit Bench! Shocking!   

                              Both Centre and State of UP have miserably failed the largest population of the country by repeatedly failing to act on this by creating more Benches so that the "poor and needy people are able to avail of speedy justice at their doorsteps as envisaged in Article 39A of the Constitution! Yet they are always ready to cough up excuses and excuses for not setting up more High Court Benches in UP especially West UP where lawyers of more than 26 districts just recently went on strike for nearly 10 days in February to protest the raw discrimination meted out to the people here by not approving even a single High Court Bench here! Still should Centre not act immediately even now? Why is Centre still not serious in translating catchy slogans like "speedy justice" and "justice at doorsteps" into action in West UP, Gorakhpur, Bundelkhand and other remote areas of UP? God knows!   

                                        All said and done, unless and until more Judges are appointed in different high courts and subordinate courts, installing just Justice Clocks is simply not going to serve the requisite purpose. We are seeing for ourselves how the lawyers of Calcutta high court and Odisha high court have been on strike for a long period as most of the Judges post are lying vacant! Why have they not been filled up?

                                           Why Centre is just happy by pointing out that it has done more than what was done by UPA and appointed more judges than them? Why Centre blithely ignores that there are huge vacancies in different high courts and also in lower courts which must be filled up on a war footing? Unless this is done by filling up vacancies of judges and unless more high court benches are created in at least some big states like UP, Bihar etc, all steps like Justice Clock etc will prove to be nothing but cosmetic steps!

                                          Centre must realize that Allahabad High Court is the biggest court in whole of Asia and has maximum judges in high court as well as subordinate courts, has maximum pending cases which is more than about 10 states put together still it has just one high court bench established by Jawaharlal Nehru way back in 1948 but 70 years till now no other bench established anywhere even though Justice Jaswant Singh Commission appointed by late former PM Mrs Indira Gandhi and headed by former Supreme Court Judge Justice Jaswant Singh had categorically recommended the creation of 3 high court benches in UP but not one was created even though on its recommendations benches were created at Aurangabad in Maharashtra, Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Jalpaiguri in West Bengal! Why UP keeps getting backstabbed time and again? Why politicians blatantly and very conveniently disregard the irrefutable fact that UP is the heart of India and if heart stops functioning no other organ can function properly and the whole body will have to be dumped? Is this is what Centre wants?  

                                    The population of Karnataka is just 6 crore which is 3 crore less than that of West UP still Karnataka has not just a high court but 3 more benches and West UP with 9 crore population has not even a single bench of high court! Why maximum MPs, maximum MLAs, maximum Judges, maximum PM including Narendra Damodardas Modi, maximum pending cases all from UP still why UP has least high court benches in India just one very near to Allahabad at Lucknow and no where else? Can PM or any minister in Centre please tell me the great secret behind this even though it is UP and not Karnataka which has 3 benches or Maharashtra which has 4 benches which is slammed by former UN Secretary General Ban ki moon as “rape and crime capital” of India and here too more than half of the pending cases in UP are from West UP which tops in cases of communal violence notorious for Muzaffarnagar riots, Meerut riots, Saharanpur riots etc and also tops in all other forms of crimes? Nothing can be more shameful than this!      

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.     
Let me begin at the very beginning by pointing out that trouble does not seem to be waning even marginally for Lalu Prasad Yadav who is the former Bihar Chief Minister and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) chief. Instead his troubles are multiplying as he is getting convicted in one after the other different fodder scam cases that were pending against him! This has certainly made him a worried man and it even resulted in his health getting deteriorated!

                                            To be sure, in the biggest legal blow so far, RJD supremo Lalu Prasad was on March 24, 2018 sentenced to 14 years in jail and a fine of Rs 60 lakh was also slapped on him by a Special CBI Court in connection with the fourth fodder scam pertaining to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from Dumka treasury in the 1990s.  CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh awarded two sentences of seven years each under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act and ordering the sentences run consecutively. If the fine remained unpaid, it would entail a further year’s simple imprisonment.

                                         Troubles pile up for RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav who has been convicted in four of the six cases pertaining to the fodder scam. Now he has the remedy to appeal before the High Court which he will certainly avail of. Now let us take a quick look at the past verdicts in the different cases pertaining to conviction of Lalu Prasad which are as follows: -

1.  September 30, 2013

Jail term: 5 years

Total convictions: 45 which includes former Bihar CM Jagannath Mishra.

Total acquitted: 0

2.  December 23, 2017

Jail term: 3.5 years

Total convictions: 16

Total acquitted: 6 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

3.  January 24, 2018

Jail term: 5 years

Total convictions: 50 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

Total acquitted: 6

4.  March 24, 2018

Jail term: 14 years

Total convictions: 19

Total acquitted: 12 which includes Jagannath Mishra.

                                    Needless to say, Lalu’s first conviction came on September 30, 2013 in the Chaibasa treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 37.70 crore. Handed a five-year prison term, Prasad came out of jail after 77 days on bail granted by the Supreme Court in December 2013. He faced legal trouble again in 2017 when a Special CBI Court on December 23 convicted him in the second scam pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 89.27 lakh from the Deoghar treasury. Lalu was sentenced to three-and-a-half years in jail in the case. On January 24, 2018 another CBI court convicted and sentenced Lalu to five years of imprisonment in the Chaibasa treasury case related to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 33.13 crore.        

                                      While craving for the exclusive indulgence of my esteemed readers, let me inform here that on March 23, the court of Special CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh had completed the hearing on the conviction. The Court had reserved the order on the quantum of sentence. The case, RC-38A/96, pertained to fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 3.13 crore from the Dumka (now in Jharkhand) treasury between 1991 and 1996 when Lalu Prasad was Chief Minister by officials of the Animal Husbandry Department of undivided Bihar.

                                   For my esteemed readers exclusive indulgence, let me also inform them that the court of Special CBI Judge Shiv Pal Singh pronounced the quantum of sentence through videoconferencing. Lalu Prasad was sentenced to 14 years in jail, seven years each under Sections of 120(B), 419, 420, 467, 468 of the IPC and the Prevention of Corruption Act. Fines adding up to Rs 60 lakh, too, have been slapped on him. Prabhat Kumar who is the counsel for Lalu Prasad while speaking with journalists in Ranchi told them that, “Both sentences will run consecutively… we’ll appeal in a higher court against the judgment.”

                                     Be it noted, Om Prakash Diwakar, then a regional director with the Animal Husbandry Department too was sentenced to two consecutive seven-year prison terms under the IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act and slapped with a similar fine. The court had earlier acquitted another former Bihar CM, Jagannath Mishra, and several other accused politicians in the case, including Dhurv Bhagat, Jagdish Sharma, RK Rana and Vidya Sagar Nishad. The court had also acquitted two IAS officials, Beck Julius and Mahesh Prasad. In all, 12 people had been acquitted.

                                        To put things in perspective, nineteen accused, including Lalu Prasad and Om Prakash Diwakar were convicted on March 19. Ten of the convicts are government servants, including former IAS officer Phool Chand Singh, who was then Finance Secretary. They have been given consecutive prison terms of three and a half years each under IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act Sections and fined Rs 30 lakh each. The other seven convicts, all suppliers and contractors too facing trial under IPC Sections were awarded prison terms of three and a half years, and fined Rs 15 lakh.

                                     In retrospect, we saw how in three earlier fodder scam cases, Lalu Prasad had been awarded jail terms of between three and a half years and five years, with the sentences running concurrently. In this case, however, the Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh said that, “The sentence would run consecutively and not concurrently”. A CBI counsel said that, “If the court doesn’t specifically mention that the sentences would run concurrently, it is understood that the sentences would run consecutively. In this case, however, the court has clearly specified that the sentences would run consecutively. We had prayed for maximum punishment.”

                               Bluntly put, Prabhat Kumar who is counsel for Lalu said that, “This is too harsh a punishment, and we were not expecting it. But we respect the judgment and will approach the Jharkhand High Court after going through the order in detail.” Advocate Vishnu Sharma said that, “Lalu Prasad has been sentenced to seven years in prison under IPC Sections 420 (cheating), 409 (criminal breach of trust by public servant), 467 (forgery of valuable security), 468 (forgery for purpose of cheating), 471 (using as genuine a forged document), 477 (fraudulent cancellation, destruction of will or valuable security) and 120B (punishment of criminal conspiracy) and penalized Rs 30 lakh. He was awarded another seven-year jail term and Rs 30 lakh fine under the Prevention of Corruption Act.” He also said that if fine isn’t paid, convict would have to spend one more year in prison for each of the two sets of Sections.  

                              Truth be told, Lalu has so far got no relief from the Jharkhand High Court. His bail petitions in the Deoghar and Chaibasa treasury cases were rejected. Not just this, his legal troubles are likely to mount further as a separate fodder scam case, pertaining to the fraudulent withdrawal of Rs 179 crore from Doranda treasury in Ranchi is currently being heard involving 120 accused and a case is ongoing in Bhagalpur as well.

                                 It is noteworthy that on March 24, the Special CBI Judge Shivpal Singh while awarding the sentences by video-conferencing said that, “The matter could have been stopped at an early stage, (but) instead of taking concrete steps Shri Lalu Prasad kept justifying the action and inaction of the AHD officials and abetted the offence.” The court rejected Lalu’s contention outright that it was he who had got FIRs registered in the first instance, saying his “malafide intention” was already clear. It also took note of the glaring fact that, during the period under consideration, Lalu Prasad was both the Chief Minister and Finance Minister of the state.

                                     It must be further added here that the court minced no words in stating unambiguously that, “Politicians namely Lalu Prasad Yadav (through) his willful omissions and commissions have contributed to this plunder. The accused persons have invariably availed pecuniary gains and hospitality from the AHD officials and suppliers.” The court further said that, “Due to this meeting of minds, they had forgotten the provisions of law, constitutional provisions, service law and the government failed to enquire into the matter of criminal negligence and take drastic steps to prevent the ongoing loot.” Lalu who was lodged in Ranchi’s Birsa Munda Central Jail is currently admitted in Ranchi’s Rajendra Institute of Medical Science (RIMS) where he was shifted after he complained of feeling discomfort.

                                     Without getting personal, one has to say with deep regret that the laws of corruption in India are very lenient which neither awards death penalty nor life term for corruption which is responsible for millions of Indians dying from poverty as corrupt politicians, bureaucrats, police cops and businessmen siphon off crores of rupees time and again yet even after being convicted come out of jail in few years or appeal to higher courts and hire best lawyers and get bail within no time! This has to end if corruption is to be controlled in our country! Why death penalty and life term not given to corrupt when it can be given to other less heinous offences like murder of a single person in a fit of anger etc?

                                  All said and done, it has to be said with full conviction that death penalty and life term should be just thrown out from our penal laws if they cannot be given to those corrupt elite who  siphon off thousands of crores of rupees like Vijay Mallya or Nirav Modi or others and yet enjoy life abroad after very easily fleeing thus making a complete mockery of our entire legal system! Corruption cases must be heard expeditiously and it should not take much time to get decided because if cases are decided in more than 20 years in just lower courts, it is but natural that the accused offenders feel that they can easily get away and by the time they are sentenced by the highest court of the land that is Supreme Court, they will either die a natural death or by that time would escape to a foreign country to lead a comfortable and luxurious life there as many corrupt are leading in UK, USA and other countries right now! But this is easier said than done because the law making is done by politicians who never want such changes which alone explains that why even after more than 70 years of independence we see no change happening on this front nor any initiative being taken on this front by any political party!

                                       No wonder, we are slipping in corrupt countries rank list and last year we were 76th and now we are 81st and it will not be a wonder when we may well top the list as politicians are just not prepared to change the laws of corruption like Prevention of Corruption Act and other laws related to corruption under any circumstances! Why should the whole property of accused offender who is corrupt not be seized and all his/her bank accounts be frozen as soon as he/she is convicted?

                                       It is sheer lack of political will power that corruption scams keep surfacing every now and then and yet we see that there is just no fear among corrupt of our laws and being jailed because there are far too many loopholes in our legal system which the corrupt exploit very conveniently with the help of their top legal team and get away either very lightly or after facing a very lenient punishment and here too come out on bail very easily! This must end if corruption is to be controlled in our country!

                                       Cases of corruption must be decided at the earliest by constituting more fast track courts and witnesses must be given full police protection so that they don’t turn hostile under fear of being killed by the high and the mighty who are corrupt! Only then can we hope of this cancerous disease of corruption getting controlled in time and our nation saved from being looted by rogues worse than dacoits and mafias who escape to foreign countries after defrauding our nation of thousands of crores of rupees as we are seeing for ourselves most unfortunately in our country in the last few years yet very little is being done to contain it immediately and cure it finally by adopting the right course of legal action against all those who resort to corruption without fear of being ever convicted finally! This has to change in India now! Status quo cannot be allowed now under any circumstances!

Sanjeev Sirohi, Advocate,

s/o Col BPS Sirohi,

A 82, Defence Enclave,

Sardhana Road, Kankerkhera,

Meerut – 250001, Uttar Pradesh.