Navin Upadhyay | New Delhi
Documents reveal attempt to woo judiciary
Two Members of Parliament from Gujarat have urged Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to order an inquiry into the shocking evidence suggesting Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA) leader Medha Patkar tried to influence the Government and the judiciary to obtain a favourable verdict in a case against her NGO in the Supreme Court.
Senior Congress leader Urmilaben Patel and Ratilal K Verma of the BJP, both MPs, have submitted identical evidence to the Prime Minister to establish that Patkar was in touch with a foreign agency, who wanted to oblige even a judge of the Supreme Court after he, along with another judge, dismissed a PIL against NBA. The PIL was filed by the National Council for Civil Liberties, a Gujarat-based NGO alleging that NBA was engaged in anti-national activities.
The MPs have enclosed email correspondence between Patkar and Patrick McCully, former director of the International Rivers Network at Barkley in the US. The correspondence shows Patkar claiming she had put pressure on the UPA Government, which was also served a notice by the court to respond to the charges of NBA's involvement in anti-national activities to stop construction of work at Sardar Sarovar Project in Gujarat.
The sequence of email correspondence between McCully and Patkar is revealing. Minutes after the SC dismissed the NCCL's PIL on July 10, 2007, McCully was informed of it by one Phillip through Patkar's email address.
Next day, McCully wrote back to Patkar, "You have mentioned in your message (email) that Judge Thakkar (CK) is ex-chief justice of Gujarat and anything can happen. How you manage this. What was the second judge?"
In reply, Patkar wrote back on July 13, "Phillip made a mistake in quoting Thakkar as the ex-chief justice of Gujarat. He was initially judge there. Justice Altamas Kabir wrote the judgement."
Patkar also wrote that many eminent persons wrote to the UPA Government and her advocates supported them. "We dealt with the press very selectively and ensured that pressure was kept all through."
"Along with this, the petitioner's case was so weak. Its triviality was obvious. Legally it was non-maintainable," she added.
To this, McCully responded on July 17, "I was keeping a constant watch on this case. I was actually disturbed after reading written submission of Saxena (VK Saxena, chairman NCCL, the petitioner), which he had posted on his website. Not a shred of reference in the judgement. You have managed it very effectively."
McCully's email underlines the fact that Saxena's petition had disturbed him and he was happy to see that the charges levelled against him were not even touched upon in the judgement. The reference to "managing" the whole thing is significant.
McCully added they would like to honour those people who supported Patkar in the case. "You can send a list of 5-6 people with their very brief background in 2-3 lines. The function can be organised in London instead of the US through other groups. With his strategy these people could be more committed to your cause."
And then he added this bit of shocking offer: "We must honour Judge Kabir for supporting you. Please explore the possibility. He will retire in 2013 -- a very useful man for your further battles."
It is well known that Justice Kabir is a respected judge with impeccable career record. While there is nothing to show he obliged Patkar, McCully's mail clearly showed a sinister design to woo him to help NBA in future.
In her reply sent to McCully on July 22, Patkar felt that openly obliging her benefactors would be counter-productive. "Thanks a lot. Other than advocates, no one would like to be acknowledged for writing to pressurise the Government. That might boomerang."
Referring to the email, both the MPs asked the Prime Minister to order an inquiry into the whole episode.
Verma has pointed out to the Prime Minister that the exchanges between Patkar and McCully are "explosive and dangerous to the extent that they show foreign interest and support to a group that is indulging in obstruction to the country's development. It carries blatant suggestion that July 10 Supreme Court judgement was managed."
Urging the Prime Minister to order an inquiry to identify those who tried to put pressure on the UPA Government and the judiciary to favour NBA, Verma asked, "When even the thought of influencing the judiciary at any level is contemptuous, is it not a case of sedition against the NBA -- a group working with foreign aid?"
Echoing similar views, Urmilaben Patel has asked the Prime Minister that "the Government should immediately inquire as to how Medha Patkar managed a favourable verdict And take appropriate action against Patkar for bringing disrepute to the Government and to the Hon'able Supreme Court and halting the process of national development with foreign support."