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All my actions are to be defined by constitutional stipulations: Dhankhar

Written by The Optimist

In an interview to The Soothsayer,

In an interview to The Soothsayer, West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar discusses his early childhood days in school, his experiences at the Bar Council, his role as a proactive Governor and much more. Excerpts: 

1. Beginning from Kithana village to being selected as the Governor of West Bengal — what has been the mantra of success in your life? 

I received my education from a government primary school in the village. It neither had electricity nor proper road connectivity. After class V, I travelled on foot to another government middle school in the adjoining village for class VI. In 1962, I participated in the Sainik School Entrance Examination and was fortunate enough to secure a merit scholarship. This turn around changed the matrix altogether. I unhesitatingly would indicate that education has been the predominant factor in my life all through. 

Professionally, I can only claim that I have been very fortunate. I had the privilege of being the youngest president of the High Court Bar Association in Jaipur and then a significant stint in the Bar Council. Conferment of Senior Advocate also came at an early age. 

2. You are probably the most proactive Governor that West Bengal as a state has ever got. You are an excellent speaker, a public person. Are you redefining the position of the ‘nominal head’? 

I would not so quite agree. My predecessors have been persons of great eminence and stature. They have indeed set a high benchmark. I can only strive to be near that. There is nothing that I have done for which there is no precedence. My total focus is that all my actions are to be defined by constitutional stipulations. The oath that I have taken requires me to protect the Constitution and to be in the service of the people of the state of West Bengal. 

I would never redefine a role that has been imparted in the Constitution and emanates from the acclaimed wisdom of our founding fathers. 

3. Earlier this year, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a written reply said 43.55 lakh cases are pending in the High Court. Out of this, 18.75 lakh cases related to civil matter and 12.15 lakh are criminal ones and over 8 lakh are decade old. To handle such pending cases, what reforms do you suggest for the Indian Judiciary? Do fast-track courts provide a long-time solution? 

This has to engage the attention of the concerned. We have an experienced law minister who also has been a distinguished senior advocate. However, our Constitution and particularly the Preamble mandate, in essence, highlights dispensation of justice with expedition and ease. Wholesome endeavours have been undertaken in this direction and are bearing fruits. 

We all have an inclination to litigate. This temper has to undergo change. Recent efforts to engage in mediation and Lok Adalats are giving dividends. 

4. In India, only in high-profile cases, virtual courtrooms are given priorities. With Artificial Intelligence and digital inputs, can the virtual reality courtrooms give a new direction to the overburdened Indian Judiciary? 

We are indeed proud of our judiciary. Its independence has been globally recognised. Courts are fast attuning to technological advancements. Massive exercise is in process. This augurs well for the efficacy and efficiency of the justice delivery system. 

5. As a nation, we are still following a number of colonial laws. Rules laid during the British era are embedded within the very core of our governance. Why can’t we reframe these laws?

We need to appreciate and applaud the steps taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in weeding out hundreds of laws. It is an on-going process. However, all that comes from the past is not to be ignored. Law is dynamic and such laws have undergone sea changes by way of amendments. 

6. The evolution of politics in India has happened at a snail’s pace. Do you think as a nation we should groom new crop politicians who would be able to take challenges and will participate in building a better nation, a new progressive India? Should political parties introduce newer benchmarks to bring in more transparency? 

India is the world’s most authentic vibrant democracy. The transition of power post-elections is smooth. The elections are transparently fair and participation is constantly on an incremental trajectory. We have politicians in all parties who make us proud by their talent and stature. We can take Indian democracy as a model for global emulation. 

7. There have been various such instances where bureaucrats have joined private enterprises in their capacities. Do you suggest a cooling-off period for Indian bureaucrats to avoid unwanted confusion and criticism in such cases? 

I personally find nothing wrong in bureaucrats going the way they wish. Maybe in some well-defined sensitive areas, a cooling period can be deliberated. There is no rationale as such to put talent on hold for the sake of it. Everyone must have full freedom to channelise one’s energy and talent as per volition and engage in full exploitation of one’s potential. 

8. Capital punishment for heinous crimes against women in India is often questioned by human rights groups and by a certain section of the media. How can the three pillars of our democracy function together to build a safer society for women? 

There is rightly greater focus on the concerns of this gender. This is quintessential for civilised society. Stringent and deterrent laws are in place. We, as citizens, also need to generate environment and awareness so that wholesome consequences seamlessly emanate. Greater participation of women in governance and legislatures would also be helpful. 

9. Public participation in governance is still minimal. How can governments across the country create a process to build a transparent and inclusive structure to construct a stronger and more corruption-free democracy?

We have ample areas of public participation. India is perhaps at the forefront on a global basis in the vibrant activities of civil society. We need to inculcate in our approach an attitude to disagree with grace and it should not be adversarial. It’s a country that has rare diversity and unifying aspects. 

Corruption is being contained by a variety of measures initiated for the first time. The human interface has been curtailed and technological inroads have been helpful. I would personally feel that the citizen also has to be in proactive mode on this. We, as a nation, need to show discipline on the roads and elsewhere. India is on the rise. Globally, our standing has had of late phenomenal upswing. We have to regain past glorious position and we surely will. 

discusses his early childhood days in school, his experiences at the Bar Council, his role as a proactive Governor and much more. Excerpts: 

1. Beginning from Kithana village to being selected as the Governor of West Bengal — what has been the mantra of success in your life? 

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar

I received my education from a government primary school in the village. It neither had electricity nor proper road connectivity. After class V, I travelled on foot to another government middle school in the adjoining village for class VI. In 1962, I participated in the Sainik School Entrance Examination and was fortunate enough to secure a merit scholarship. This turn around changed the matrix altogether. I unhesitatingly would indicate that education has been the predominant factor in my life all through. 

Professionally, I can only claim that I have been very fortunate. I had the privilege of being the youngest president of the High Court Bar Association in Jaipur and then a significant stint in the Bar Council. Conferment of Senior Advocate also came at an early age. 

West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar with his wife Smt Sudesh Dhankhar

2. You are probably the most proactive Governor that West Bengal as a state has ever got. You are an excellent speaker, a public person. Are you redefining the position of the ‘nominal head’? 

I would not so quite agree. My predecessors have been persons of great eminence and stature. They have indeed set a high benchmark. I can only strive to be near that. There is nothing that I have done for which there is no precedence. My total focus is that all my actions are to be defined by constitutional stipulations. The oath that I have taken requires me to protect the Constitution and to be in the service of the people of the state of West Bengal. 

I would never redefine a role that has been imparted in the Constitution and emanates from the acclaimed wisdom of our founding fathers. 

3. Earlier this year, Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad in a written reply said 43.55 lakh cases are pending in the High Court. Out of this, 18.75 lakh cases related to civil matter and 12.15 lakh are criminal ones and over 8 lakh are decade old. To handle such pending cases, what reforms do you suggest for the Indian Judiciary? Do fast-track courts provide a long-time solution? 

This has to engage the attention of the concerned. We have an experienced law minister who also has been a distinguished senior advocate. However, our Constitution and particularly the Preamble mandate, in essence, highlights dispensation of justice with expedition and ease. Wholesome endeavours have been undertaken in this direction and are bearing fruits. 

We all have an inclination to litigate. This temper has to undergo change. Recent efforts to engage in mediation and Lok Adalats are giving dividends. 

4. In India, only in high-profile cases, virtual courtrooms are given priorities. With Artificial Intelligence and digital inputs, can the virtual reality courtrooms give a new direction to the overburdened Indian Judiciary? 

We are indeed proud of our judiciary. Its independence has been globally recognised. Courts are fast attuning to technological advancements. Massive exercise is in process. This augurs well for the efficacy and efficiency of the justice delivery system. 

5. As a nation, we are still following a number of colonial laws. Rules laid during the British era are embedded within the very core of our governance. Why can’t we reframe these laws?

We need to appreciate and applaud the steps taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in weeding out hundreds of laws. It is an on-going process. However, all that comes from the past is not to be ignored. Law is dynamic and such laws have undergone sea changes by way of amendments. 

6. The evolution of politics in India has happened at a snail’s pace. Do you think as a nation we should groom new crop politicians who would be able to take challenges and will participate in building a better nation, a new progressive India? Should political parties introduce newer benchmarks to bring in more transparency? 

India is the world’s most authentic vibrant democracy. The transition of power post-elections is smooth. The elections are transparently fair and participation is constantly on an incremental trajectory. We have politicians in all parties who make us proud by their talent and stature. We can take Indian democracy as a model for global emulation. 

7. There have been various such instances where bureaucrats have joined private enterprises in their capacities. Do you suggest a cooling-off period for Indian bureaucrats to avoid unwanted confusion and criticism in such cases? 

I personally find nothing wrong in bureaucrats going the way they wish. Maybe in some well-defined sensitive areas, a cooling period can be deliberated. There is no rationale as such to put talent on hold for the sake of it. Everyone must have full freedom to channelise one’s energy and talent as per volition and engage in full exploitation of one’s potential. 

8. Capital punishment for heinous crimes against women in India is often questioned by human rights groups and by a certain section of the media. How can the three pillars of our democracy function together to build a safer society for women? 

There is rightly greater focus on the concerns of this gender. This is quintessential for civilised society. Stringent and deterrent laws are in place. We, as citizens, also need to generate environment and awareness so that wholesome consequences seamlessly emanate. Greater participation of women in governance and legislatures would also be helpful. 

9. Public participation in governance is still minimal. How can governments across the country create a process to build a transparent and inclusive structure to construct a stronger and more corruption-free democracy?

We have ample areas of public participation. India is perhaps at the forefront on a global basis in the vibrant activities of civil society. We need to inculcate in our approach an attitude to disagree with grace and it should not be adversarial. It’s a country that has rare diversity and unifying aspects. 

Corruption is being contained by a variety of measures initiated for the first time. The human interface has been curtailed and technological inroads have been helpful. I would personally feel that the citizen also has to be in proactive mode on this. We, as a nation, need to show discipline on the roads and elsewhere. India is on the rise. Globally, our standing has had of late phenomenal upswing. We have to regain past glorious position and we surely will. 

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The Optimist

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