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Prison to Tomar, Immunity to Irani

ARE there different sets of laws for different people? An inebriated Bollywood star drives his car over homeless people sleeping on the footpath and is convicted and sentenced to five years in jail. But he hasn’t been put in prison. He was almost instantly given bail by the High Court, in contrast to thousands of convicts to whom bail under similar circumstances has been denied. But the law minister of AAP government in Delhi Jitender Singh Tomar, who is accused of faking a law degree and other educational qualifications, was put into prison even though he is still not found guilty by the court. His case is pending in the Delhi High Court. Despite the matter being sub judice, the Delhi police arrested him like a criminal. An FIR was lodged at 3 a.m. and seven IPS officers leading policemen in 33 vehicles swooped on him. A person convicted of culpable homicide not amounting to murder is let off on bail because he is yet to exercise his right to hearing by a higher court. But an elected legislator is arrested because his degree looks suspicious in a kind of raid the police make for capturing an underworld don. Couldn’t have Lt Gov Najeeb Jung’s (proxy Prime Minister Modi’s) police waited for the court to decide?

In our country, politically driven police differentiate between who is and who is not from the ruling camp before arresting someone for making false claims of obtaining educational degrees. Union HRD Minister Smriti Irani gets away for “adding value” to her educational background with claims of her education levels that keep changing in her affidavits to the Election Commission. In 2004 she submits an affidavit claiming a Bachelor’s degree in Arts in 1996 from Delhi University’s School of Correspondence. In 2014 she submits an affidavit claiming she had completed just the first year of her said degree course!  Can one regressively go down in one’s educational level with the lapse of time? Hers was a fit case of criminal prosecution. But NDA police did not arrest her. She graduated to bolder untruths with no action coming: She claimed she also had a ‘degree’ from the Yale University. She could not explain which discipline she studied at Yale. Later the media discovered that all she had done was participate in a six-day leadership programme at the Yale University campus in New Haven, Connecticut, US as a member of a group of eleven Indian MPs.

Despite opposition demand and strident media criticism, Prime Minister Narendra Modi ordered no investigation against his HRD Minister for filing conflicting affidavits. Nor did he drop her from his cabinet. After the excessive police action against the AAP law minister, the Modi government had to face allegations of following double standards on false claims of educational accomplishments. The BJP came out with an explanation which was not much convincing.  Smriti Irani’s case, the party said,  cannot be compared with that of Tomar’s because Smriti was facing the charge of providing “wrong information”, while the allegation against Tomar was “printing of fake degree certificates”, submitting the same before the Election Commission and then becoming the law minister of Delhi on the basis of these forged documents. But didn’t Smriti Irani submit false claims before the Election Commission? Didn’t she swear an affidavit that all the information given was true?

Speaking of fake degrees of elected representatives, Rajasthan might take the cake. The recently concluded panchayat elections had a rider that sarpanchas had to be minimum Class VIII pass. Several 80-plus aspirants filed their nominations stating that they studied in schools during the British Raj and most of these schools did not exist now. Some even mentioned of schools in Pakistan before the Partition and the poll panel had a tough time looking for these schools. Most of these schools could not be traced. But since they produced documents, they were allowed to fight elections. This particular incident in the desert state was difficult to handle.

Tomar faces allegations of forging his certificates and he must be prosecuted for that. Evidence pieced together by the cops revealed that Tomar created fake degrees, counterfeit qualifications and has a history of cheating. If all these turn out to be true, he deserves to be punished. However, what the nation is finding it hard to accept why similar strong police action is not taken against Smriti Irani. The Modi government could do that even now, in order to prove that all are equal in the eyes of law.  Else, while the Modi government scores a political point over Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP in Delhi, the people at large across the country will remember with disapproval the speed and urgency with which the Delhi police arrested Tomar and the total immunity it has let Irani enjoy.

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