On July 27, 2008 three BJP MPs viz. Faggan Singh Kulaste, Mahabir Singh Bhagora and Ashok Argal were attempted to be bribed. They recorded the act of bribe giving wherein an offer was made to them to accept money and vote in favour of the Government in the vote of confidence taken on the Civil Nuclear Deal with the United States. After recording the act of bribe-giving they immediately went to Parliament; produced the money on the floor of the House; and exposed the fact that bribes were being offered to MPs to cross-vote in favour of the Government. The case was investigated by the Delhi Police and the three MPs as whistleblowers were charged for an offence for being a part of the conspiracy in giving and accepting bribe. Along with the alleged bribe-givers, three whistleblowers were arrested. Later on they were released on bail. A charge-sheet was filed before the Special Judge, CBI in Delhi. On November 22, 2013 Shri Narottam Kaushal, the Special Judge, CBI in Delhi discharged the three whistleblowers along with some others. The learned judge categorically stated-
“The meeting of minds or agreement between the accused, CNN-IBN team and three BJP MPs was only regarding collection of evidence on horse-trading and exposing leaders of Congress Party and Samajwadi Party, who were indulging in corrupt activity to lure vulnerable MPs of other parties. The said act cannot be said to be illegal or a legal act with illegal means; so as to attract a charge u/s 120-B IPC”.
The same order was also extended to two other whistleblowers viz. Sudheendra Kulkarni and Suhail Hindustani. The Judge in relation to these two accused further observed, “His presence with accused BJP MPs during later part of the events with the knowledge that proceedings were being recorded by CNN-IBN team and his active participation therein indicates that he was one of the actors playing his role in the drama being enacted to entrap bribe giver”.
This judgment was a significant victory for those who were campaigning for the rights of the whistleblowers and grant of protection to them. India needs more whistleblowers so that acts of corruption can be exposed. The Lok Sabha has already passed the Whistleblowers Bill and the same is pending before the Rajya Sabha. If there is any window of opportunities for legislation, which is available in this session, I do hope that this Bill can be passed at the earliest.
The newspapers today carry a detailed news item that the AAP Government has decided to appeal against this verdict. The AAP ostensibly claims to be a product of a movement which campaigned for the Lokpal and the Whistleblowers legislation. It, therefore, surprises me that one of the earliest decisions of the AAP Government would be to challenge the discharge of whistleblowers by a competent court. Admittedly, people cross voted in the vote of confidence in July, 2008. Admittedly monies were being offered to the MPs. Admittedly the three MPs with two of their colleagues enacted the whole drama of receiving bribe and getting an independent TV channel to record the same. They exposed one of the greatest scandals in independent India’s history. They were wrongly charged, and rightly discharged.
That Mr. Arvind Kejriwal and his government would now plead for prosecution of the whistleblowers comes to me and many others as a matter of surprise. But then political consistency is becoming unknown for some. Interestingly, Mr. Kejriwal is exhorting everybody to do sting operation on corrupt officials. But were the Aam Admi party’s standards to be applied to such cases, then everybody would be guilty under 120-B of IPC.