A few days after Dr. Parakala Prabhakar, Communications Advisor to the Seemandhra government, shoot his mouth off, it was the turn of his "boss" Nara Chandra Babu Naidu to mouth equally ridiculous arguments. In an interview with Rajdeep Sardesai, Naidu while walking a tight rope made several claims.
Naidu refused to answer Sardesai's pointed questions whether the voice in the audio clip was his. While calling for investigations, he refused to answer to the logically nature question if he would cooperate with the Anti-Corruption Bureau (ACB). He pointedly referred to the possibility of the tape being a fabrication but evaded an answer when asked if he would provide his voice sample or submit to a "lie detector" test.
Naidu repeatedly accused Telangana government, especially the Chief Minister Kalvakuntla Chandrashekar Rao (KCR) of phone tapping. While he disclosed no evidence or basis, he expressed confidence that the charges would be proved.
These verbal pyrotechnics apart, Naidu's other claims may be briefly summarized below:
· T-news, a channel owned by KCR, must disclose how it obtained the audio tape purporting to be purporting to be a record of the conversation between Naidu and Elvis Stephenson, the complainant
· Telangana government has no powers to tap his phone (or that of the other "all our people" who are claimed to be fellow victims")
· Election commission, an autonomous body, controls all police activities during an election
· Telangana ACB therefore has no powers to conduct the alleged sting operation against Anumula Revanth Reddy
· As the Seemandhra Chief Minister, he has equal rights in the so called "common capital"
· Seemandhra has its own police & ACB who are authorized to initiate appropriate action
Naidu graciously conceded ACB's right to investigate the allegations against Revanth Reddy but claimed it could not "drag me".
Naidu's insinuations of fabrications in the audio tape are clearly contradictory to his unsubstantiated allegation of phone tapping. This betrays a desperate approach of pleading mutually contradictory defenses one after the other in the hope of defeating the suit rather than a principled consistent approach based on facts.
Naidu ignores the fact the impugned audio tape was broadcast by several channels, not just T-news. Media world over zealously guard sources. There is virtually no precedent of any publication worth its salt revealing the source of any story or even of any government in a free society attempting the elicitation of sources. As it is extremely unlikely a politician of Naidu's experience is unaware of this, the bravado against a particular channel needs to be dismissed as political rhetoric not worth any further consideration.
I have already demolished Prabhakar's claim that phone tapping is illegal. Naidu's claim on exactly the same lines does therefore not merit any serious discussion.
To give him credit, Naidu comes up with an ingenious innovative approach that even the allegedly intellectual Prabhakar failed to conjure up! The claim that the Election Commission controls all police activities in the run-up to elections looks so appealing at face value that many people probably treat it as gospel truth J
Section 28A of the Representation of the People Act, 1951, reads as follows:
"Returning officer, presiding officer, etc., deemed to be on deputation to Election Commission: The returning officer, assistant returning officer, presiding officer, polling officer and any other officer appointed under this Part, and any police officer designated for the time being by the State Government, for the conduct of any election shall be deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission for the period commencing on and from the date of the notification calling for such election and ending with the date of declaration of the results of such election and accordingly, such officers shall, during that period, be subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission".
The above powers are derived from article 324 (6) that reads as follows:
"The President, or the Governor of a State, shall, when so requested by the Election Commission, make available to the Election Commission or to a Regional Commissioner such staff as may be necessary for the discharge of the functions conferred on the Election Commission by clause 1".
A plain reading of this section reveals the following:
· The Election Commission may request appropriate police & other officers to help conducting elections
· The appropriate government is obligated to designate such staff as necessary
· The officials so designated are deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission
· The deputation period commences on the date the election is notified and concludes when the results are declared
· During this period, the deputed officials are subject to the control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission
The rationale behind the law is clearly to let the Election Commission conduct fair & free elections without interference from the political top brass. As this requirement quite evidently relates to bureaucrats assisting the conduct of elections, it is clearly limited to such individuals and, again quite logically, for the duration required to conduct the democratic exercise. By no stretch of imagination does this law extend to all government servants, whether police or otherwise, as Naidu would have us believe. Normal government activity including criminal investigations does go on subject only to certain constraints necessitated by the special conditions surrounding the conduct of elections.
Election Commission v. Karnataka, 2013 related to the Election Commission's transferring officials deputed by the state government. The learned Justice N. Kumar held on behalf of the Karnataka high court bench:
"In the instant case, after preliminary preparations are made for conducting election, before issue of notification calling for the elections, the Election Commission wanted these respondents-4 to 10 to be posted in place of applicants during the period of election. Once they are so posted, after the issue of notification, they are deemed to be on deputation to the Election Commission for the period commencing on and from the date of the notification calling for such election and ending with the date of declaration of results of such election and 55accordingly such officers shall, during that period are subject to control, superintendence and discipline of the Election Commission. Therefore the order passed by the Election Commission directing the State to post these officers in the place suggested by them would result in deemed deputation to the Election Commission for the aforesaid period".
This case makes it amply clear that the jurisdiction of the Election Commission extends only to those officials who are deputed by the state government. The Election Commission does not run the entire police force, indeed it has neither the mandate nor the powers, Mr. Naidu!
Most Indians fed on 24 hour news have heard of the model code of conduct in effect during elections. This "awareness" lends additional "credibility" to Naidu's senseless rant on the alleged power of the Election Commission.
What role if any does the model code of conduct play in the present case? Nowhere does the code assert all police force report to the Election Commission. The code places certain restrictions on the party in power to prevent misuse of power for electoral purposes: none of these even remotely lend any credence to Naidu's claims.
Let us now move to the so called "common capital". As per section 3 of the 2014 Telangana act, the entire area of the Hyderabad & Ranga Reddy districts is assigned to Telangana. Under section 5, Seemandhra is permitted to house its capital in Hyderabad "for such period not exceeding ten years".
The honorable Hyderabad high court deliberated this matter in a recent case. The learned Chief Justice Kalyan Jyoti Sengupta heading the bench decreed: "On a fair reading of Section 5 of Act, 2014, as correctly contended by the learned A.G. for the State of Telangana, the State of Andhra Pradesh is a mere user of the city of Hyderabad for a maximum period of ten years. It has no proprietary right, title and interest in this city".
The authority of any institution is derived from the jurisdiction assigned by due process. Dual or conflicting jurisdiction is an anathema in any society. By virtue of section 3 of the 2014 act, Seemandhra government has no jurisdiction over Hyderabad or any other part of Telangana. This extends to all branches of the executive including the police. Naidu's veiled threat of using "my" police & ACB to counter the alleged conspiracy against him is therefore meaningless.
Naidu is eligible for the appropriate privileges & protocol. This right however stems from his status as a Chief Minister of an Indian state, not from the so called "common capital".
Naidu appears to believe he enjoys immunity from criminal action or even investigation due to his status. The fact that any case that may emerge would be against an individual named Nara Chandra Babu Naidu and not against the Chief Minister of a state seems to be lost on him. Individuals however high and mighty are not above the law, Mr. Naidu!
There have been media reports that Seemandhra police have been deployed in Hyderabad and assigned duties such as Naidu's security. This is an extra territorial assertion of authority and therefore illegal. Seemandhra officials are duty bound to reject any such illegal orders. All individuals involved in such activities face the applicable legal consequences if the Telangana police initiate proceedings.
Naidu is well advised to file a complaint on the alleged phone tapping and submit any evidence in his possession to the authorities. Bravado is no substitute for due process J