Ram Nath Kovind was sworn in as the 14th President of India. The speech he delivered was excellent both for its content and its underlying spirit. Some extracts of his speech worth quoting are: “I grew up in a mud house, in a small village. My journey has been a long one, and yet this journey is hardly mine alone. It is so telling of our nation and our society also. For all its problems, it (nation) follows that basic mantra given to us in the Preamble to the Constitution—of ensuring justice, liberty, equality and fraternity, and I will always continue to follow this basic mantra.”
The President stressed, “The key to India’s success is its diversity. Our diversity is the core that makes us so unique. In this land, we find a mix of states and regions, religions, languages, cultures, lifestyles and much more. We are so different and yet so similar and united… Often we agreed, sometimes we disagreed. But we learnt to respect each other. And that is the beauty of democracy.”
In the list of persons in the category of nation-builders, the President inter alia included the committed and driven public servant who works beyond the call of duty, whether on a flooded road, directing traffic, or in a quiet room, poring over details filed and the selfless teacher who equips young children and shapes their destinies. He emphasised, “What must also bother us is our ability to enhance access and opportunity for the last person and the last girl-child from an under-privileged family if I may put it so, in the last house in the last village.”
In the concluding part of his speech, he made a reference to Mahatma Gandhi and Deen Dayal Upadhyay and stated that “these are integral to our sense of humanism. This is the India of our dreams, an India that will provide quality of opportunities. This will be the India of the 21st century”. Unfortunately, an unnecessary controversy has erupted over his non-mention of Nehru in the context of his mentioning Deen Dayal Upadhyay. Apparently, some Indians are genetically prone to controversies.
Momentous Developments in Pakistan:
A five-judge bench of the Pakistan Supreme Court held that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is unfit to hold office, and has ordered his disqualification. Understandably, the Opposition in Pakistan has hailed the verdict. Opposition leader Imran Khan said, “The Supreme Court’s decision has given hope to the people of Pakistan today,” and called the apex court’s decision “the beginning for a new Pakistan.” Sharif promptly resigned after the Supreme Court verdict. His supporters are highly critical of the judgment and accuse the judiciary of political motivation.
According to former law minister Zahid Hamid, the judgment was based on weak arguments. In the opinion of former legal advisor Zafarullah, the judgment creates a new system of jurisprudence. General Musharraf is overjoyed. The Army is happy with the judgment.
The court ruling helps the military because it has sharply reduced Sharif’s influence and serves to shift the balance of power back towards the generals. In my view, the judgment does not affect the vexed problem of Kashmir and Indo-Pak relations. In a sense, it testifies to the independence of the Pakistan judiciary.
Pardon Power: An interesting debate is raging in the USA on whether President Donald Trump can legally pardon himself or his family. One view is that he cannot; because the fundamental rule is that no one may be a judge in his own case. The pardon provision of the Constitution is to enable the president to act essentially in the role of a judge of another person’s criminal case. Supporters of this view say that there is not a single instance of a self-pardon having been recognised as legitimate.
Even the Pope does not pardon himself. On March 28, 2014, in St. Peter’s Basilica, Pope Francis publicly kneeled before a priest and confessed his sins for about three minutes.
The critics pungently conclude by saying “there is one thing we know that Trump cannot do—without
Soli J Sorabjee
Former Attorney-General of India