An atmosphere of animosity between the warring individuals and their departments might persist for some time and, therefore, there is a need for initiating conscientious efforts to restore and reinforce the elusive trust and goodwill between the MoD and army headquarters
In what came to be called an ‘unprecedented step’ the army chief, General VK Singh had gone to the Supreme Court seeking justice against a government order dated 30 December 2011, which had rejected his statutory complaint seeking resolution of a conflict in his service records that showed two dates of birth—10 May 1951 as per the records held by the Adjutant General’s Branch (AG) and 10 May 1950 as per the records held by the Military Secretary’s branch (MS) at the army headquarters. All legally tenable evidences like birth certificate, school leaving certificate and prior legal advice from three or four former chief justices of India pointed only to one date—10 May 1951 as the correct year of Gen VK Singh’s birth.
In the first hearing on 3rd February, the apex court reprimanded the government for its “vitiated decision making process” which had resulted in rejection of Gen VK Singh’s statutory complaint. Throwing back the government order of 30th December, the honourable judges also offered the government counsel to either withdraw this order or else they would quash it, as reported in the media. In the second hearing on 10th February, even as the government withdrew its impugned order, the court surprisingly upheld the same government decision that had rejected the general’s contention and maintained 1950 as his year of birth. It also ticked him off for reneging on his earlier commitments accepting the date he was now challenging. The general withdrew his petition.
The case has thrown up some significant issues, which must engage public attention and concern.
As far as the petitioner and public curiosity are concerned, of the two dates in his service records, one was correct and the other wrong—whatever the reasons. The court was expected to adjudicate and give a verdict on the right and wrong in the case before it. Instead, the honourable judges chose to discuss the good and bad in the case. Thus, in what appeared to be an ethics-before-the-law approach, they sought to invoke the general’s conscience by suggesting that it did not behove of a virtuous leader of men like him to question the date he had earlier accepted—for whatever reasons. Ethically, yes, it does indicate a lack of moral courage in a man who commands world’s second largest army to give in to duress and blackmail. More serious than this human fallibility, however, is the fact that his seniors were audaciously deceitful and scheming to extract his acceptance of a date of birth they knew was false. Is it not legally expedient to expose and suitably punish those who indulged in such unethical and illegal machinations at such high levels?
A natural fallout of this brokering at the Supreme Court is the likelihood of government employees using it as a precedent to justify unauthenticated dates of birth given carelessly or cunningly at the time of recruitment by just signing “undertakings of acceptance” some time later in service ignoring or even refuting the primary documents like birth certificate and school leaving certificate. Birth is a natural occurrence, whichis impossible to be altered humanly. How can even Gen VK Singh be required or authorised to accept or reject such an inalterable date, time and space ordained by Providence? Had the honourable judges proceeded to look into it, they would have found that 1951 was indeed the correct date. It was most frustrating that on 10th February, India’s army chief was again coerced to accept what was legally and factually wrong—a false date of his birth—and agree to an armistice letting justice remain elusive and beyond his reach even at the country’s highest altar of justice. A wrong appeared being helped to triumph over the right; falsehood over truth.
Vitiated Decision making Process
What was so bad in the government order of 30th December that the honourable Supreme Court treated it unworthy of acceptance and forced the government to withdraw it? It was essentially a reiteration of the government’s earlier decision maintaining 1950 as the year of Gen VK Singh’s birth, which he had challenged. If the 30th December order was bad and vitiated, so would be the earlier government orders communicating the same text. But surprisingly, these very orders pushing 1950 as his year of birth have been now upheld.
Logically a decision that flows from a vitiated process cannot be fair. What beats human prudence, however, is that the same vitiated decision that was thrown back at the government has been implicitly allowed to prevail. What should be a cause of concern here was that this case was not an odd casualty of the “vitiated process of decision making” in the offices of MoD. Many proposals and recommendations from the armed forces on vital issues concerning national defence, security and state of the forces have been treated shabbily. One of the causes is lack of professional awareness and inability of bureaucrats to understand the urgency and operational significance of military recommendations.
This handicap could be offset in two ways. One, military officers should be posted in various departments of MoD to aid, advise and streamline the decision making process which requires a professional orientation—especially when the world looks at India as a rising global power. Two, bureaucrats earmarked to be posted to the MoD should be required to qualify in appropriately structured courses at the military training establishments and do field tenures with military units and formations deployed in active operational areas so as to understand operational military environments in their proper perspective. Such exposures will integrate the forces headquarters with the MoD more effectively.
Authority Vs Accountability
A protectionist environment has gradually come up in departments where officers misuse their authority in several ways. Keeping enquiries inconclusive for years on, overstaying tenures, ignoring complaints and not acting upon recommendations of authorities like CVC and CBI are common. As corruption spread to high government positions, it became easier for office functionaries to buy and sell favours with impunity. More and more officers began working for selfish motives ignoring their official responsibility. Money, they found, could influence inquiry and justice could be bought too. Official equation of senior-junior has been turned upside down in the evolving environment where the junior is now a partner of his boss in a common pursuit where they share the exploits mutually. The junior has thus emerged more audacious and stronger, whereas the senior has become more timid and susceptible to blackmail.
Expressing concern at the rising malaise recently, the Supreme Court had to stipulate a three-month time limit for the government to give its decision on requests for sanction of prosecution against delinquent officials failing which the prosecution shall commence without further waiting. The Supreme Court’s indictment of the “vitiated process of decision making” in the MoD should lead to inner systemic cleansing and revamping offices and departments to make them more responsive.
Larger Ramifications of the Case
In the unseemly legal battle between the army chief and his own government, both—the victor and the vanquished—share each other’s gain and loss, honour and disgrace. Irrespective of who wins in such a scenario, the nation loses. The apex court and the government both lauded Gen VK Singh’s honesty, integrity and abilities to lead the army and allowed him to withdraw his petition. Hindsight now suggests that even though the law entitles everyone to seek redressal of grievances through courts of law, it would perhaps be more honourable for officers in such high positions to either accept the government decision or, if unable to digest such a decision, resign and fade away honourably.
Currently, there is an uneasy calm and eerie whispers in the corridors of South Block that this case might further vitiate the already tenuous civil-military relationship. An atmosphere of animosity between the warring individuals and their departments might persist for some time and, therefore, the need for initiating conscientious efforts to restore and reinforce the elusive trust and goodwill between the MoD and army headquarters. In the event of Gen VK Singh offering to resign now, it would be a great gesture on part of the defence minister and senior MoD officials to show magnanimity and accord all honour and decorum to him while bidding him farewell. Such a gesture would go a long way not only to iron out the surficial suspicions but also in restoring and strengthening the civil-military relationship.
(Col Karan Kharb is a military veteran who commanded an infantry battalion with many successes in counter-terrorist operations. He was also actively involved in numerous high-risk operations as second in command of the elite 51 Special Action Group of the National Security Guard (NSG) widely known as ‘Black Cat Commandos’. He conducts leadership training and is the author of two bestsellers (“Made to Lead” and “Lead to Success”) on leadership development that have also been translated into foreign languages).
Mr Sarma, former secretary of the Government of India, in a letter said the finance ministry should coordinate with MCA, SEBI and RBI to find effective answers to money circulation schemes which do not evidently add any value to the economy but siphon off the incomes of the people
EAS Sarma, former secretary to the Government of India (GoI) said the government should perhaps set up an inter-disciplinary team to investigate the existing companies operating pyramid and multi-level marketing (MLM) schemes and their multifarious links to establish the patterns that have emerged.
“While there are committed officials in Andhra Pradesh (AP) and the other states and professional journalists who have meticulously investigated some of these cases single-handed and brought the culprits to the book, the task that is faced by us is far too formidable to be left to single individuals or a single agency,” Mr Sarma said in a letter sent to finance minister Pranab Mukherjee.
He said, “The team should comprise of Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Revenue Intelligence, Department of Corporate Affairs, the Serious Fraud Investigation Office (SFIO), the Registrar of Companies (RoC), Intelligence Bureau (IB) and investigating agencies from various states. Fast-track courts should be set up for speedy trials. It is possible that the ongoing investigations into the mining scams, land deals, spectrum sales and so on with political links have their tentacles extending into these 'pyramid' schemes”.
In the recent times, one finds a proliferation of unsustainable money circulation schemes initiated by fly-by-night operators with the sole aim of swindling the people and decamping with huge amounts of funds, by offering the gullible public, unreasonably high returns for small initial subscriptions. These are variously known as ‘chit funds’, ‘pyramid’ or ‘matrix’ schemes and MLM schemes, which involve promising participants payment or services, primarily for enrolling other people into the scheme, rather than supplying any real investment or sale of products or services to the public. These schemes do not evidently add value to the economy but siphon off the incomes of the people to fill the pockets of a few, says Mr Sarma.
These schemes have permeated almost all sections of the society today. The operators of these schemes face no hurdles at all in launching their schemes at will and luring unsuspecting people into the trap set for them. It has become commonplace to find each of these schemes collapsing under its own weight, causing immense trauma to unsuspecting households participating in the scheme. Every other day, one finds promoters letting down the subscribers and getting away with thousands of crores of rupees. These schemes, if allowed to operate unchecked, will promote among the people, the urge to gamble and destroy the social fabric of the society.
According to the estimates made by those familiar with these schemes, in AP alone, there are more than 10,000 such schemes in operation today. At the national level, the number could run into lakhs involving hundreds of thousands of crores of rupees, far exceeding the amounts involved in the scams uncovered recently. While the government is spending huge amounts on its social security programmes, these pyramid schemes act counter to them and neutralise their effect.
While there are existing laws such as Indian Penal Code (IPC), the Prize Chits and Money Circulation Schemes (Banning) Act, 1978 (PCMCS Act) and others under which concerned agencies could prosecute the culprits, there is no effective mechanism in place to ensure a coordinated approach to identify the fraudulent operators in advance and book them well before they destroy the livelihoods of thousands of households and launder the ill-gotten funds to unknown destinations.
“Apart from the two laws referred above, the transactions involved in these schemes violate several other laws such as the Income tax Act, the VAT Act, the Sales Tax Act, the Drugs & Cosmetics Act, the Food Adulteration Act, Prevention of Money Laundering Act, Foreign Exchange Management Act and so on. Many private and public sector financial institutions are partners in these schemes. It is possible that the funds generated by these schemes are so large that they have links to drug peddling, arms purchases and terrorist activity within and outside the country. These schemes have far reaching implications from the point of view of the security of the country,” the former secretary said.
Realising the pernicious impact of these schemes, several countries (e.g. USA, UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, Sri Lanka and others) have enacted laws to ban them.
In India, AP was the first state to enact a law to ban money circulation schemes in 1965. Both the Supreme Court and several high courts have passed landmark judgements against the operation of these schemes as they violate the law of the land and are detrimental to the interests of the public. There are ongoing cases against Speak Asia and Amway, to cite two examples.
There are infirmities in the existing laws to tackle the problem of these schemes effectively. For example, the penalty for offences committed under PCMCS Act does not exceed a few years of imprisonment and a few thousands of crores of rupees of fine, whereas the schemes act as a “slow poison” in the society; the culprits would have violated several economic laws and have links to anti-national groups and swindled thousands of crores of public money. An urgent review of the relevant laws is called for.
According to Mr Sarma, the central government in conjunction with the states should promote public awareness of the futility of these schemes and their negative impact on the families’ ability to invest adequately on education, health and other essential facilities, he added.
In the letter to the finance minister, Mr Sarma said, “I request the government not to underestimate the need to tackle the operators of these money circulation schemes. In my view, this item should occupy a very high place on the agenda of the ministry of finance. I believe that your ministry should co-ordinate with the ministry of corporate affairs, SEBI and RBI to find effective answers to this problem.”
The consolidated operating revenues of the company for the December quarter stood at Rs457 crore, an 82% jump from its corresponding period last year when it stood at Rs251 crore
New Delhi: Anil Ambani Group company Reliance Power today reported 42% increase in consolidated net profit at Rs204 crore for the quarter ended 31 December 2011 compared to Rs 144 crore in the year-ago period, reports PTI.
“Our 600 MW Rosa plant continues to run at high operational efficiency and financial profitability. The third 300 MW unit at Rosa has been successfully commissioned three months ahead of PPA schedule,” Reliance Power chief executive officer JP Chalasani said.
The company in a statement said that the operating revenues from the 600 MW Rosa Phase I has almost doubled to Rs441 crore from Rs241 crore in the previous year and the net profit for the plant has also increased to Rs75 crore from Rs40 crore in the previous year.
The consolidated operating revenues of the company for the December quarter stood at Rs457 crore, an 82% jump from its corresponding period last year when it stood at Rs251 crore.
Reliance Power said the entire 1,200 MW Rosa project is set to be operational by March 2012, while, the construction activities at the 3,960 MW Sasan Ultra Mega Power Project (UMPP) in Madhya Pradesh progressing as per schedule and the first unit is expected to be commissioned ahead of schedule by December 2012.
“Gas turbines of the 2,400 MW Samalkot Project are ready for synchronisation and power generation and we are well on track to become a 5,000 MW operating company by end of 2012.” Mr Chalasani added.
Further, the pre-commissioning activities have commenced for the first 300 MW unit of the 600 MW Butibori project in Maharashtra and the unit is expected to be commissioned by March 2012.
The project is expected to be fully commissioned by the middle of the year, Reliance Power said.
Shares of the company were trading 0.19% up in post-noon trade at Rs 105.50 on the BSE. Earlier the stock jumped over 1.61% in morning trade to touch a high of Rs107 on the exchange.