Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Officials adorning key positions must adhere to the constitution, not any ideology

Jestin Abraham

It is not prudent and ideal for any official adorning a key constitutional position to be guided by a political ideology. It is natural and rightful for persons to have a political stance or opinion on every matter. But those, in-charge of key posts, are expected to adhere to the rule of law and must act impartially within the interest of their office. Any aberration would devalue and undermine the constitutional respect for the position.

It was two days back, the outgoing chief of the Indian Army General Bipin Rawat made an irresponsible public statement criticizing the protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Registry of Citizens across the country. His comment that students leading crowds carry out arson and violence is not leadership has drawn flak from various quarters.

“Leaders are not those people who lead people in inappropriate directions, as we are witnessing in a large number of university and college students, the way they are leading masses of crowds to carry out arson and violence in our cities and towns,” General Rawathad said at an event in New Delhi.   

His comments on the issue were seen inappropriate for a serving army chief and were subject to sharp criticisms by the opposition parties and others. It is unbecoming and unusual for the top army officer to make a public comment with a political tint on the civilian affairs of the country. It is against the interest of the constitutional role he is entrusted to perform.  

The latest of an episode happened in Kerala on Monday, where Governor Arif Mohammad Khan faced the heat of the protest when the delegates of the 80th Indian History Congress, provoked by his inaugural speech, raised posters and began sloganeering.   

The protesters raised slogans when Governor Khan condemned the protest against CAA. The provoked students and other delegates rose in protest holding up posters with some shouting out that “India is not Pakistan”. The Governor, in response, lashed out against the protesters that “you (the protesters) are guided by an agenda and thought. You can’t shout me down”. Even historian Irfan Habib, who was sharing the dais with the governor, rose and protested.

This is not the first time Arif Mohammed Khan has made a controversial remark on the CAA. A few days back, he had said that the CAA fulfills the promise made by Jawaharlal Nehru and Mahatma Gandhi to the minorities in Pakistan. His remarks were condemned by the Congress leaders, who reacted strongly that the Governor is behaving as a spokesman of BJP. Khan was also shown black flags in protest by KSU-Youth Congress workers when he came to Kannur University to inaugurate the History Congress on Monday. 

The Governor, who left the venue concluding his speech in the midst, later tweeted that he was only responding “to the points raised by previous speakers as a person bound to defend and protect the Constitution. But trying to disrupt speech from stage and audience due to intolerance towards different opinion is undemocratic”.

He even lashed out against Irfan Habib in his tweet. “Shri Irfan Habib on stage to disrupt inaugural address questioning Hon’ble Governor’s right to quote Maulana Abdul Kalam Azad, shouting that he should quote Godse. He pushed Hon’ble Governor’s ADC & Security Officer, who prevented his unseemly gesture,” he tweeted with a photograph showing Kannur University Vice-Chancellor Gopinath Ravindran and others trying to dissuade historian Irfan Habib from interrupting the governor’s speech.  The aforementioned incidents are unfortunate and should have been avoided. The persons in key positions must be vigilant, careful and responsible while making public statements that it should conform within the code of conduct. They should not project themselves as politically biased and must act in compliance with the limits of their office. Their privileges come from the constitutional validity of their positions, not their achievements.


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