Interview with Kapil Sibal: “ If the government continues with the Central Vista project, the future government must remove the plaque and say that it was built despite the money needed to save people’s lives ”
Chief Congress Officer Kapil Sibal speaks with the Indian Express about the government’s handling of the pandemic, the role of the opposition and the judiciary’s response to Covid-related issues.
The country is reeling from the second wave of the pandemic. How did the judiciary respond to your opinion?
The problem we face today in this country is that the legal battle between citizen and state is seen to be and often is an unequal battle. In this context, Supreme Court rulings in the recent past suggest insufficient consideration of the state’s position before the court. I’m going to give you an example. If the government tells the court that there are no migrants on the streets contrary to the images that everyone can see, shouldn’t the court question the government? Obviously, such a statement was contrary to the heartbreaking public domain images we were aware of. When migrants were stranded in various parts of the country, we saw footage of the public providing food and shelter to hapless migrants. The government’s position in court that everything was normal, everything was run efficiently by the state and that migrants’ needs were taken care of was clearly untenable. The reality was contrary to what the nation witnessed; unlike the reality on the ground? Yet the court chose not to examine the reality. When that happens and the court takes what the state says for granted, the battle becomes one-sided. This seems to be the crux of the matter in the process of adjudicating matters. This unequal battle cannot even be made up for by the destitute and the unfortunate who hire lawyers. Public interest litigation is the consequence. (With) sometimes quality legal representation missing, the battle becomes even more unequal. With the second wave, which caused unimaginable havoc, unnecessary loss of life due to the lack of basic facilities in our health infrastructure, and for other reasons, the judiciary became much more sensitive to the current and continuing human tragedy and has rightly become. proactive.
Many of the high courts have been much more proactive.
Because the pandemic affects almost all families. The Chief Justice of India said the other day that a large number of magistrates had themselves been affected. Now that it affects us all… the virus does not distinguish between rich and poor, powerful and weak… Courts have rightly started to question the government’s claims. We are all moved with shame to witness the tragedy unfolding before our eyes; the power of social media has opened our eyes to institutional mismanagement and the harshness of some. Floating corpses, lack of adequate vaccine supply, shortage of beds, shortage of oxygen, and then, of course, the people who profit in the midst of this crisis are matters of deep anguish. In this process, people have become “atmanirbhar” because the state cannot be found. It was certainly not the prime minister’s dream when he wanted an “atmanirbhar Bharat”.
Congress has a great pantheon of lawyers, you included… why hasn’t Congress thought of knocking on the doors of the Supreme Court?
Political parties should not engage in this blame game in the courts. This gives this human tragedy a political color. I don’t think the courts should be turned into arenas to express our political grievances. I think it should be done by lawyers, only as lawyers, unrelated to the ideology they espouse.
Congress does not seem able to make a point on the electoral scene either. What’s the exit then?
You are sort of slowly persuading me to comment on the elections, which I loathe to do at the moment… we face a national emergency and we have to deal with it first before we deal with anything else.
And how do you see the role of the opposition in this kind of pandemic situation?
We should not be talking about the role of the opposition or the role of government. The absence of the state will naturally lead the opposition to make suggestions to the government on what to do in the coming months to protect our people. These constructive steps are to be welcomed. The real problem we face today is the lack of adequate vaccine supply; also the lack of adequate production facilities. Why have we limited vaccine production to two entities… both private? Why was the public sector excluded from it? Why have international vaccine manufacturers like Pfizer, Moderna been excluded? Why was the importation of their vaccines not allowed with approval? We need a massive national effort to ensure we acquire the vaccines needed to immunize our adult population. Unless it is done, and it is done too quickly, we will be exposed to cataclysmic consequences exposing millions of people to this deadly second wave mutant virus… The point is, we have not sufficiently supported our research community ; not providing enough funding for biotechnology researchers because we have a government that does not respect the wonders of science. This government does not encourage a scientific temperament in our approach to problems. Prominent figures in the ruling party, including ministers, advise us to consume dark chocolate in these uncertain hours; appreciate the value of cow urine and cow dung … if we start believing in all of this in the midst of a health crisis and the facility supports such a state of mind, we end up trusting tradition and belief rather than science to achieve effective results. It is a state of mind that must change.
What is your suggestion for the government now?
My suggestion to the government is to do what you can … which is to vaccinate our people. Give all the money… the PM Cares fund, the Rs 35,000 crore that you had set apart… spend it all. Negotiate with Pfizer and others. Even if you have to buy vaccines at higher, expensive prices… at any price available after negotiation. Subsidize people. The second problem is that the virus has now reached rural areas. There is no health infrastructure to save them. The district administration should be asked to identify each family that has lost a winning family member or family member and to provide support in terms of food, rations, medical aid. The government should forget about all these controversial projects and start thinking about the people rather than themselves. Frankly, if the government goes ahead with the Vista project … if they build it despite the pandemic, the alternative government that comes to power has to take the plaque and say that this project was built despite the fact that it had to be. money to save people’s lives. This should be the plaque if this project is completed. It is an act of monumental insensitivity not to voluntarily stop this project …