Thoughts on economics and liberty

Remembering Justice Tewatia and his pivotal role in the creation of Swarna Bharat Party

Following on from here.  [Note: An obituary has been published in The Tribune today]

HIS CAREER AND WORK

First, a summary of Justice Tewatia’s career and other activities based on this official record on the Karnataka High court website and from my own knowledge about his work.

DS Tewatia was born on 1 June 1930. After collegiate education in India, he was called to the Bar from Lincoln’s Inn in London. He enrolled as an advocate in the High Court of Punjab on 25 November 1955. I understand that sometime during the 1960s, DS Tewatia became an MLA. Being unhappy with India’s parties, he even formed his own party.

Later, he was appointed as Advocate General of Haryana, then Additional Judge of Punjab and Haryana High Court on 6 February 1970 and Permanent Judge from 20 April 1982. He was transferred to the High Court of Karnataka from 28 June 1976 and transferred back to Chandigarh on 19 July 1977. [Digression: He fell foul of Indira Gandhi’s Congress –

“His tough stand earned him a transfer to the Karnataka High Court in June, 1976. Justice Tewatia is believed to be one of the 18 judges across India transferred out of the parent high court for being on the wrong side of the government of the day.He was transferred back to Punjab and Haryana HCand assumed the duties as judge in July 1977, before being appointed the Chief Justice in October, 1987.” [Source]

He was Chief Justice of Punjab and Haryana High Court from 15 October 1987 to 29 October 1987. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Calcutta High Court on 03 November 1987 and demitted office on 2 May 1988.

After retirement, he was involved in efforts to clean up India’s corrupt system, being actively associated with the India Against Corruption movement.

MY INTERACTION WITH HIM, FROM 2012 ONWARDS

I got to know him well after his retirement, from 2012. I knew him mainly as a good man and so I write this to commemorate a good man, not just the learned man he was.

It is also not that I agreed with everything he believed in or said.

1) I disagreed with his findings about Modi’s involvement (or rather the lack of it) in the 2002 Gujarat riots (his report here). I thought his report was rather cursory and quick to exonerate. I have put out – on this blog – extensive proofs of Modi’s direct complicity in the crimes against humanity that occurred in Gujarat in 2002.

2) I also disagreed with some of his ideological views. He wrote a book, A Journey Less Travelled, which I commented on at length, here.

3) In April 2013 Ramdev seemed to be changing his stance in relation to the new party that he had committed to forming. There was now a possibility that Ramdev would support BJP instead of launching our new party. At this stage, Justice Tewatia asked me whether I would consider joining BJP. I refused point blank. I told him that I had already given in a lot by agreeing with Ramdev that our party would form part of NDA. I wanted a completely independent liberal party. But I would not go one inch beyond that. My goal was for liberal party to replace all other parties, including BJP. I would not lose my soul by joining an existing party – something I could have done long ago, if I had wanted. I don’t think Justice Tewatia was disappointed with my approach.

Anyway, let me start at the beginning.

I first came into contact with Justice Tewatia in the second half of 2012 through a common friend, Ram Atri (who was one of the early members of the Freedom Team of India). I had a number of conversations with Justice Tewatia over the phone from Melbourne – perhaps for three months, outlining the work we were doing as part of Freedom Team of India. He kept saying that India needed change and that I should form a party.

Later that year – perhaps in October – he was taken by Ram Atri to meet Baba Ramdev (Ram Atri has some family relationships with Ramdev, I understand). I gather that in the 3-day long meetings he held with Ramdev, he spoke very highly about me and my work.

Thereafter, Ramdev called me over phone from India, mentioning Justice Tewatia’s praise and wanting me to create a new political party for India. Ramdev would support me in the creation of this party although he would not be personally involved in the party.

As you may know, although I have long wanted to be part of an Indian liberal party, in 2005 I had decided I would not do so without a significant number of leaders. Hence I had proposed and created the Freedom Team of India in December 2007.

However, Ramdev  called me a second time and insisted that I attend a particular event in end-December where thousands of people were being assembled at Patanjali.

I was very sceptical about Ramdev (both his integrity – given Tehalka’s articles against him, and his mental ability, given the amount of rubbish he had said in the past – some of which I had critiqued on my blog).

But I spoke to Justice Tewatia and asked him about Ramdev. Even though Justice Tewatia had not met Ramdev earlier, he had concluded that Ramdev may well be an honest and well intentioned man, and therefore worthy of being given a chance. Of course, within around half a year of this discussion (in late November 2012), both Justicie Tewatia and I agreed that Ramdev is very problematic.

Anyway, prompted by  Justice Tewatia’s assessment (and also discussions with a number of other people) I decided to take a chance and make the trip to Patanjali – at great personal cost.

But I digress. This post is not about Ramdev but about Justice Tewatia.

I thus personally met justice Tewatia in his house in Gurgaon for the first time in December 2012, and on a number of other occasions during the following month. One of the things he asked me was to write down a summary of what we want to do if we were to come to power. So by January 2013 I had helped draft such a document: just a few pages long.  Justice Tewatia was happy with it and agreed with my overall liberal approach.

By April 2013, this document had evolved into the initial Sone Ki Chidiya Agenda that was discussed for four days at the National Reform Summit in Patanjali. After that, over the course of two years, it evolved into the manifesto of the Swarna Bharat Party.

Also, in early April 2013 I invited Justice Tewatia to chair the governance reforms conference that I had organised at the Indian Institute of Public Administration (I had shared a video from this conference in the blog post I wrote yesterday).

One thing is clear, that without Justice Tewatia’s moral support it is very unlikely that I would have changed my stance of not forming a party till a large number of leaders had assembled. Of course, there was Ramdev’s commitment to launch the party. But my belief that a good man like Justice Tewatia supported formation of this party, was key to changing my stance.

Once I had put in the huge amount of effort to get the party designed and the manifesto written down,  and the 100+ affidavits created (mainly by the effort of Anil Sharma of Bhadohi) – we did go ahead launch our party on 1 June 2013 – without Ramdev’s involvement. That was a brave decision, to go it alone, but I knew we had the support of good men like Justice Tewatia. I believe it was the right thing to do, despite very feeble prospects of success and no funding.

By mid-2013 it had become very clear that Ramdev was completely unreliable and also linked with a number of unsavoury activities.  Justice Tewatia stopped supporting Ramdev at that stage.

After our party started, I kept Justice Tewatia in the loop at each stage, via email. I also met him on a number of occasions, particularly in 2014. I remember taking many photographs with him but I can’t find them readily.

During my 2016 trip to India, I spent most of my time in travelling across the country, and did not have time during my July 2017 India trip to meet anyone apart from SBP members.

Justice Tewatia played an important role in my life from around 2012 to 2014. Swarna Bharat Party is in a sense his legacy. Without his support, I’d not have contemplated forming it or putting in the effort to write a manifesto.

One can only hope that India adopts the new party and listens to Justice Tewatia’s message – that India desperately needs change. He was definitely not happy with the “change” being offered by BJP. And Congress was out of the question.

That’s why he wanted a new party. We now have it.

He was a liberal who genuinely tried to reform India. Let’s keep working to transform India so the dreams of people like him can be realised.

ADDENDUM

Justice Tewatia was keen that people like Yogendra Yadav work with me. So when Yogendra Yadav visited Justice Tewatia in some context in 2013 (I think) he asked Yogendra to meet me. I invited Yogendra to come to my house in Palam Vihar but as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, Yogendra is an extremely arrogant and foolish man, just like Arvind Kejriwal, and he wrote a very rude email to me.

ADDENDUM

 

Sanjeev Sabhlok

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