Kerala governor levels serious conflict of interest charge against ex-SC judge who pulled him up

The Kerala governor was speaking at the ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai on Wednesday
Kerala Governor Arif Mohamed Khan in conversation with Prabhu Chawla at the ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai.
Kerala Governor Arif Mohamed Khan in conversation with Prabhu Chawla at the ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai.Photo | Express

CHENNAI: Kerala Governor Arif Mohammed Khan on Wednesday levelled a serious ' conflict of interest' allegation against ex- Supreme Court judge Rohinton Nariman since his father and senior advocate Fali Sam Nariman and his juniors received Rs 40 lakh from the Kerala government for advice.

He was responding to a query on Rohinton Nariman expressing concern about the tendency of Governors to sit on bills. In December 2023, Nariman had said that one of the disturbing facts was "a Governor of a traditionally minority government state, Kerala, sitting over bills for periods of up to 23 months. When the Supreme Court rapped him on his knuckles, what did he do? There were eight such bills. One bill was assented to, seven were referred to the President…”

Governor Arif Mohammed Khan then presented claims that Nariman senior and his juniors were paid around Rs 40 lakh by the Kerala government, which indicates a conflict of interest. The governor alleged that the amount was paid despite Fali Nariman not appearing in the case and then presented the gazette notification showing the Kerala government had sanctioned it.

Kerala Governor Arif Mohamed Khan in conversation with Prabhu Chawla at the ThinkEdu Conclave in Chennai.
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"The father is receiving money and the son is giving opinions blasting the governor. This is not following the principle of natural justice," he said, speaking on the first day of the 13th edition of The New Indian Express ThinkEdu conclave on Wednesday. He was speaking on the topic 'Chancellors and State Universities: Defining the Role' chaired by Prabhu Chawla, Editorial Director of The New Indian Express.

When asked if appointing Governors, who are political appointees, as the chancellor of universities, would politicise the educational institutions, Khan said that the appointment of chancellors by the President, and not by the executive, is the only way to ensure the autonomy of universities. "Politically, India has been fragmented and there is no dearth of politicians who are swayed by this to get public support. They start pursuing things that are not very conducive to his stance in national unity. It was a very wise decision taken at that time to not vest the power to appoint chancellor with the executive," he said.

He added that the bills that are pending with the governor should be money bills. "The purpose of the bills is to remove the governor as chancellor and give the authority to the government to appoint the Chancellors. Through this, the state will incur some expenditure and it should be called a money bill. The prior approval of the governor is needed for a money bill. To avoid this, they passed on the responsibility to meet the expenses to the universities. In my opinion, those bills are money bills," he said.

Talking about the legacy and culture of India and education, he said the first chapter in the books of Arab historians from the 10th and 11th centuries is always devoted to India. "They say that there are five dominant cultures or civilizations in divide. The Iranian civilization is known for its majesty, the Chinese for their craftsmanship and obedience to the law and rulers, the Romans for their beauty and chivalry, and Turks for their bravery. India is the only civilization which is known for promoting knowledge and wisdom. We are ever devoted to the pursuit of knowledge and sharing of knowledge with others," he said.

He also quoted Rabindranath Tagore to emphasise that India cannot achieve full independence unless it is recognised that her foundation is in mind. He added that we continued we continue to be engaged in the acquisition of knowledge, but we stopped sharing knowledge with others.

Stating that our tradition has a universal vision, he said that any culture that is defined either by race or by religion creates others. "Our culture doesn't even leave out any mammals, birds, or plants. Because once you create others, others are to be feared. There is an instinct to fear, dominate, and exploit the other," he said.

He also emphasized the importance of exposing ourselves to all kinds of thoughts, because, without comparative study, it is difficult to crystallize the thought process.

He also complimented The New Indian Express for organising an annual conclave on education as generally, media groups opt for more glamorous, attractive, or rather controversial subjects.

Revive Bhartiyata, forgotten Indian rich heritage: Prabhu Chawla

Editorial director Prabhu Chawla passionately advocated for the revival of India's forgotten rich heritage. He stressed the significance of restoring national pride, delving into the profundity of the Vedas, and highlighting the enduring relevance of intellectual luminaries like Kautilya. “Revive the Bharat, which provided literature and scriptures to the whole world. Remove the divide between the elite and irrelevant education and bring relevant education which makes Bharat proud,” he said.

Reflecting on the impact of the National Education Policy, Chawla credited the discussions and ideas exchanged in the ThinkEdu platform for influencing certain aspects of the policy. “We started something that was not there at all. Education never got the priority that it got now,” he said.

Chawla expressed concern over significant portion of Indians who remain uneducated and uninformed, attributing this vulnerability to manipulation by the Western world. “As a newspaper organization, we bear a profound responsibility to spotlight the type of education that India truly requires. In the past, we excelled, yet the education system imposed upon us post-independence subjected us to mental enslavement. While physically liberated, our minds remained tethered to an educational paradigm shaped by foreign-authored books and literature—crafted not by Indians for India but by foreigners for India.”

Highlighting the pivotal role of education in empowering India, Chawla declared it as the singular subject capable of restoring the nation’s strength. He emphasized the importance of indigenizing Indian education to align with the country's illustrious past. Chawla lauded the conclave’s unique focus on constructive discussions, where participants engaged in debates not merely over ideology but more significantly over ideas to shape a better future for India.

Over the last decade, the ThinkEdu Conclave has hosted 25 sessions, totaling 200 hours, featuring 600 speakers including former President Pranab Mukherji and Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, along with academicians and opinion makers. They fought over how to make India better, they fought over ideas not over ideology, he said.

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