Her visit to Wales was remarkable. At the inauguration of a spiral steel mill owned by Swraj Paul, her emotional speech swept the audience off its feet. Wales is the place where Aneurin Bevan had made his historical speeches to further the cause of socialism.
Bevan was a personal friend of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru. Against this historical backdrop, the followers of Bevan and the daughter of Nehru made a pretty picture together and evoked intense spells of nostalgia. Moved by her speech, a worker commented that she was sure to win the parliamentary seat if she chose to contest from Wales. The Wales story was distorted by some Indian journalists, and a yarn also spun regarding her ‘investment of money’ in the steel mill.
On the way back to India, she decided to meet some important Soviet leaders
pany her into custody. The police wanted to take her to the Badkhal Lake guest house in Haryana. When the convoy stopped at a level crossing near Faridabad, Sector II, Indira Gandhi stepped out and sat on a culvert. Her lawyers argued with the police personnel that taking the ‘prisoner’ outside the city’s territorial jurisdiction was not legally tenable. The police had to concede to this legal obligation, and took her back to Police Lines in Old Delhi….
The AICC session subsequently called to condemn the repression by the Janata Party government instead turned into a forum for condemning Indira Gandhi. Even a senior leader like Swaran Singh joined her critics in the open session. K.P. Unnikrishnan called her a ‘Bourbon’ monarch who refused to learn lessons from history. A host of speakers were handpicked by the President to attack Indira Gandhi and the so-called Emergency excesses, as allegedly revealed by the findings of the Shah Commission. Many of us were denied a chance to at the Moscow airport. Arrangements were made, but nothing was disclosed, not even to other party members. I was the only one accompanying her. (Sonia Gandhi had gone to Italy to meet her relatives and extended her stay in Europe. My wife, Geeta, had decided to stay on in England for another four weeks.) We decided to leave for India by Aeroflot airlines; there was no passenger in the first- class cabin of the aircraft except the two of us. A CPI leader from Uttar Pradesh travelling from London on the same aircraft recognized Indira Gandhi.
We were taken to the reserved lounge at the Moscow airport. Indira Gandhi was taken to another room where she met the Soviet dignitary; I stayed with the other Soviet officials and had dinner with them. Nobody came to know what actually happened at the airport. Later, the CPI leader who had recognized Indira Gandhi spread
the news that Indira Gandhi and I had got off at the Moscow airport, but that he had no idea who she had met. The Indian embassy, too, had no knowledge about this visit. Some press persons, later, wanted me to disclose the name of the Soviet leader; nobody believed me when I pleaded ignorance. But the media soon lost interest in the subject, since more important developments were taking place in Parliament at that time.
Indira Gandhi took oath as a member of the Lok Sabha on 20 November. Having been elected from Karnataka, she took the oath in Kannada. Janata Party and CPI(M) members like Jyoti Basu stated that with her, ‘evil has come back to Parliament’. Other than that, most members welcomed her warmly. But it wasn’t for long that she was an MP.
speak at the AICC meeting. While I was unsuccessful all the three times I tried, Sathe did get the chance, and spoke forcefully and effectively to expose the ‘sycophants of yesterday turned rebels of today’. But he was alone. Outnumbered.
However, it is not as if Indira Gandhi was bereft of supporters. When C. Subramaniam rose to speak, a large number of AICC members protested against him for his evidence before the Shah Commission. While deposing before the Commission on 1 October, Subramaniam had blamed Indira Gandhi and had said that he had made some appointments to the RBI and other banks on her instructions. Subramaniam could not complete his speech…. Indira Gandhi came to the meeting in the evening and spoke dispassionately, ignoring all insinuations and insults. She reminded the Congress members of their future tasks.
…I was called twice by the Shah Commission to give evidence, first on 1 October 1977. On that day, I queried my being called without proper legal summons. This was based on the fact that I was a central minister, and all ministers are bound by the oath of secrecy not to divulge any information or matter which they arrived at in their capacity as ministers. I, too, had taken this oath when I had been sworn in as Minister of State for Finance. My question to the Shah Commission thus was that by giving evidence before them, was I not violating the oath of office as a minister? I then asked the Shah Commission to give its ruling in writing so that in case it deemed it appropriate for me to give evidence disregarding my oath as a minister, I could challenge it in the court of law. However, they refused to provide anything in writing, and Justice Shah simply said, ‘You are not violating oath of office by disclosing facts before the Commission.’ Hence, as I was not given anything in writing,
I could not take recourse to the law.
On 19 November 1977,1 was again called by the Shah Commission, now
in connection with the detention of Maharani Gayatri Devi under the COFEPOSA Act. I raised my question again, and also asked why we could not get the assistance of legal counsel. In response, Justice Shah said, ‘At this stage of the inquiry, when I am trying to find out your involvement in certain transactions, you are not prima facie guilty and in case* found guilty, you will all get legal protection prescribed by the law at that stage. As of now, you have been asked to cooperate with me.’ I then asked Justice Shah if such ‘cooperation’ was compulsory or optional, to which Justice Shah responded, ‘You are free to cooperate or not. You are free to come and go.’
As a result, I chose not to cooperate.
This was the background for my refusal to provide evidence before the Shah Commission. It is for this refusal that Justice Shah prosecuted me under IPC 178-179.
Something similar occurred when
I asked the Shah Commission to give its ruling in writing so that in case it deemed it appropriate for me to give evidence disregarding my oath as a minister, I could challenge it in the court of law. However, they refused..
A section of anti-Indira Congressmen criticized my action. However, my stand was vindicated when, in a subsequent case, Justice Chawla of the Delhi High Court upheld my contention and, till date, that judgement continues to prevail. ★★★
Indira Gandhi was asked to appear before the Shah Commission on 22 November. Rather than go to the witness box, she made a full-fledged statement pointing to the lacunae in the functioning of the Shah Commission, and accused the government of setting it up as a tool of political persecution. She, too, was prosecuted under IPC 178-179, with a criminal case being filed in the magistrate’s court.