REPAIR THE DAMAGE DONE TO DEMOCRACY

Subhas Chandra Pattanayak

Mr. Maheswar Mohanty has resigned from the Speaker position following lady marshal Gayatri Panda’s allegation of sexual harassment against him.

Ms. Panda was admittedly facing disciplinary proceedings before raising such an allegation.

This is enough reason to suspect that her allegation might have been vitiated by motive to browbeat the Speaker under whose orders she has been put under suspension for dereliction in duty.

Sadly the Opposition as well as a section of women activists has not thought it prudent to treat the matter in this light even as they have voiced vehement demands for action against Mr. Mohanty absolutely oblivious of how adversely it may affect the dignity of the esteemed office.

It is sad to further note that though the Speaker is the Constitutional guardian of the rampart of democracy, the State Government has failed to appreciate that it was the duty of the State to ensure that he was not a prey of false charges.

It was the minimum responsibility of administration to eliminate all possibilities of false charges against the Speaker in order to safeguard the dignity of the esteemed Chair.

Therefore it was necessary to test the veracity of the allegation of the lady marshal through polygraph testing before entertaining it for any action against the Speaker. We, in our lead article on 27 March 2008 had stressed on it, but the Government, as is its wont, preferred to slough it over.

Prosecution all over the world is increasingly depending on polygraph testing, as it is considered to be one of the most reliable methods to identify liars.

Accuracy of the result of polygraph testing has been established by more than 200 studies conducted by the American Polygraph Association during the past 25 years.

In India, the browbeaters are in the habit of citing Article 20 (3) of the Constitution to exclude polygraph results from forming irrefutable base of judicial verdicts under the plea that this Article has protected everybody from being compelled to be a witness against his or her own self in any court of law.

But there is no bar in use of polygraph in investigation. In fact it helps check labyrinth of lies engulfing the process of law.

In response to a recent query from the Supreme Court of India, Solicitor General G E Vahanvati has submitted on January 22, 2008 that use of polygraph in detecting liars in course of investigation is neither illegal nor unconstitutional.

“In the complex social milieu which obtains today, in particular having regard to the proliferation of crimes against society and against the integrity of the country, it is necessary to keep in mind the interest of the society at large and the need for thorough and proper investigation as against individual rights while ensuring that constitutional rights are not infringed.

“If these tests are properly considered to be steps in aid of investigation and not for the purpose of obtaining incriminatory statement, there is no constitutional infirmity whatsoever”,

Vahanvati has submitted before a Bench headed by Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan, while harping on how the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) permits its use.

So, in a case as sensitive as this one, it was necessary to ascertain the truth of the allegation by conducting a polygraph test on Ms. Panda before proceeding further in the matter. But the Chief Minister has measurably failed to lead the State in proper direction in this case.

It is to be marked that he has dismissed his blue-eyed boy Debashish Nayak from the Council of Ministers alleging openly that Nayak’s conspiratorial role in this particular case has extinguished his confidence in him and, as a person not enjoying confidence of the CM cannot continue as a Minister, he had to be dismissed.

Navin’s assertion juxtaposed with Mohanty’s claim of innocence makes it unambiguously clear that the Chief Minister personally knew that the lady marshal was a part of the conspiracy cooked up against the Speaker. In view of this he should have stressed first on ascertaining as to whether or not Ms. Panda was telling a lie. He has not.

Consequently, a Speaker of the Assembly, who initiated disciplinary proceedings against the lady marshal for serious dereliction in duty, has been elbowed out from his position and has been subjected to police investigation to the total detriment of democratic dignity.

The injury done to democracy in such a fashion will not stop at this point. Male Officers all over the State will no more dare to draw up any disciplinary proceeding against any woman worker in any instance of dereliction in duty. It shall have a total demoralizing effect on administration.

Hence, it is time, instead of insipid utterances that law will take its own course, the Chief Minister should use his prerogative to stop all sorts of investigation in the matter till the voracity of the delinquent lady’s version is not test through polygraph that medico-legal science so painstakingly has developed. The Opposition, the Women Commission, the women activists and common politicians should wait till polygraph testing results show that the lady has not told a lie.

This may repair the damage done to democracy.

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