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Vilasrao’s cabinet post a shameless act: Judge
Published on 7 Feb. 2011 11:25 PM IST
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Supreme Court Justice A K Ganguly has expressed dismay that the Centre allowed Union cabinet minister Vilasrao Deshmukh to continue “in full glory” despite being slammed by the SC barely two months ago for grossly abusing his power as Maharashtra chief minister to shield from criminal action a moneylender family which was squeezing debt ridden farmers of Vidarbha dry.
Justice Ganguly, who was in Mumbai to address lawyer-activists on Saturday, called Deshmukh’s shift by the UPA government from heavy industries to rural development during the recent reshuffle a “shameless act”. The judge, who along with Justice G S Singhvi, was on the SC bench that on December 14 had castigated the ex-CM, said, “The CM is still a minister. He is looking after rural development...He continues in equal glory.” He added, “Farmers have no remedy against moneylenders who charge exorbitant interest rates...” Political observers said later that it was ironical that a minister censured for shielding moneylenders operating in rural areas was handed the rural development portfolio.
Justice Singhvi and Justice Ganguly had imposed a fine of Rs.10 lakh on the state government after slamming Deshmukh for having used his influence as CM to prevent the police from registering a criminal case against a Congress legislator’s moneylender father.
On Saturday, Justice Ganguly, who was introduced to the gathering as a judge who had passed several strong judgments including the one were he had come down heavily on Deshmukh’s interference with the criminal justice system, said, “It is sad and shocking to see how the government allows and appreciates such ministers. Not only that, (it) also gives them a cabinet post. It is not a dignified act, I would call it a shameless act.”
Reacting to Justice Ganguly’s remarks about Vilasrao Deshmukh, Congress spokesman Manish Tewari said, “People hold the judiciary in high respect. There is a sacrosanct concept in the constitution called the doctrine of separation of powers. It is important for proper functioning of the polity that every institution respects this constitutional maxim.”
A retired chief justice on Sunday in Delhi expressed surprise that a sitting judge should speak on a matter in this manner. “Judges are not supposed to speak about their judgments, they speak only through their judgments,” he said.
Lawyer Mahesh Jethmalani said, “Any honest government that respects the judiciary ought to have immediately removed Deshmukh. There are three PILs pending before the Bombay high court against him for allegedly usurping public lands. He has not filed an affidavit in reply in any PIL yet. By giving him the rural development portfolio, the Congress gives the impression that its idea of rural development is strengthening the hands of usurious moneylenders.”
The state which had to pay Rs 10 lakh to the state legal aid committee has, even two months later, not paid the amount.
The case in which the SC had denounced the actions of the former CM, was one where the state had appealed against a Rs.25,000 penalty imposed on it as costs by the Nagpur bench of the Bombay high court. The HC had imposed the fine on March 5, 2009 on a petition by two Buldana district farmers, Sarnagdharsingh Chavan and Vijaysingh Chavan, alleging that the police had refused to register a criminal case against Congress legislator Dilipkumar Sananda’s father Gokulchand Sananda, a private moneylender.
Vilasrao Deshmukh’s private secretary asked police not to register a FIR. This was recorded in the police diary. Deshmukh allegedly told the collector not to act till he personally looked into the matter ‘CM’s order in time of suicides shocking’. It led to police refusing action in other complaints too.
The SC bench had said: “The message conveyed shocks the conscience of this court about the manner in which the constitutional functionaries behaved in the state.” Ripping apart the politically dramatised pro-farmer face projected by the Congress-led coalition government, the SC had said the complaint while seeking action against money lenders was categorical—farmers do not get the benefit of various packages announced by the government and the state machinery is ruthless with farmers.
In a no-holds-barred criticism of Deshmukh, the SC bench said Deshmukh’s intereference in asking authorities to bestow special treatment to Sananda’s family members came as a shock as close to two lakh farmers committed suicide in India between 1997 and 2008. “This is the largest sustained wave of suicides ever recorded in human history. Two-thirds of the two lakh suicides nationwide took place in five states of Maharashtra, AP, Karnataka, MP and Chhattisgarh. Even though Maharashtra is one of the richest states in the country and 25,000 of India’s one lakh millionaires reside in its capital Mumbai, the Vidarbha region of Maharashtra, in which is situated Buldana, is today the worst place in the whole country for farmers,” it said.
The SC said that a CM holds a position of great responsibility and “Deshmukh had certainly acted beyond all legal bestowing special favour to some chosen few at the cost of the vast number of poor people who as farmers have taken loans and who have come to the authorities to register their complaints against money lenders”.
At the conference Justice Ganguly did not agree with the demands by some to repeal section 498A of the Indian Penal Code which deals with cruelty to wife by husband. “Many laws are abused, even section 307 (attempt to murder ) is abused by many...”

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