The Rediff Interview/Justice K Venkatswami
Justice K Venkatswami, a retired Supreme Court judge, is heading the one-man commission to probe into the defence scandal that rocked the nation a couple of weeks ago.
A former chief justice of the Patna high court, Venkatswami began his career as an advocate in the Madras high court in 1960 and retired from the Supreme Court in September '99. Currently the chairman of the Chennai-based Railway Rates Tribunal, his present appointment comes as an additional responsibility. The judge spoke to Shobha Warrier about this new assignment. Excerpts:
What was your reaction to the news that you had been nominated to head the commission inquiring into the allegations of corruption in defence deals?
It is a mixed reaction. I feel proud that I am the person appointed to probe into the case. At the
same time, I do not know how to react to the case as I have not yet seen the tapes or the terms of
reference. Moreover, I want to commence my inquiry with an open mind, and not with any pre-
conceived notion. Therefore, I do not want to go into the material now.
Do you feel honoured that you have been chosen for this very tough job? Were you surprised?
Yes, it came as a surprise to me. Definitely, I feel honoured. At the same time, let me add that I
am scared too.
I feel I should not falter; I should not commit any mistakes. I should not give room for others
to say that I did not do my duty properly. Because of the nature of the case, I must come out
successfully and without any scratch on my reputation. Till now, I have acquitted myself creditably
and to the satisfaction of everyone. I want that to continue.
Have you been following the expose in newspapers and on television?
I never expected that I would be chosen for this job. Just like any other person, I have read all
that has appeared in the newspapers. But as I have not watched the news or the tapes on television,
I do not know what the tapes are.
The case is very sensitive as it involves the government that is in power and the commission is
constituted by the government.
Yes, the case is extremely sensitive. That is why I need all your support and well wishes.
Is this going to be one of the toughest assignments that you have handled?
It is a very tough one because not only is the whole nation watching you but it is being watched
internationally too. It is a tough case because I have to probe into a new type of investigation. So, it is very challenging to take up the case and find out the truth.
Are you going to probe the sting operation too or only the defence scandal?
I can't say anything now, as I have not seen the terms of reference. They said they have sent it
The government is trying to prove its innocence in this case. So, do you expect any pressure from
Certainly not. I have no doubt about the fact that I will have the full freedom to probe the case. I
can confidently say that I will find out the truth without being influenced by anybody from any
The other day, the left parties criticised the government's effort to have a
one-man commission as "suspect" and "objectionable." Many other political parties also criticised
the move. Your comments.
I do not want to comment at all. Everybody has a right to express (themselves).
Former prime minister P V Narasimha Rao was convicted for bribing JMM MPs. In this case also,
can Tehelka be convicted for offering a bribe?
It is true that the giver is as guilty as the receiver but as I said, I am only at the threshold of
the case. Let me have some idea about it. Only then, will I be in a position to answer your question.
I am going to Delhi by the middle of this week and will start the investigation by the 1st of April.
You have been given four months to complete the probe. It was also reported that as per the terms of
reference, you could also submit an interim report.
No, no. Some newspapers asked me whether I would submit an interim report. But I said there
was no question of submitting any interim report. I will try to finish the probe within the four-month
period. When you are going to finish everything in four months, where is the question of an interim
Yesterday, you were in Tirupathi to offer prayers. Has the visit got anything to do with the
It was incidental. I go to Tirupathi regularly. I have come back after visiting my daughters in the
United States only two weeks ago. Before the trip, I had been to Tirupathi and now that I have
come back safely, I went there to offer prayers.
I will not say that the trip has nothing to do with the appointment. It was additional.
In your career as a judge, you must have come across many difficult cases. What gave you
the courage and confidence to come out of such difficult situations?
I seek the help of god. I am a strong believer in god and his powers. So, I pray to god whenever
I am confused. God has come to my rescue till now.
Photograph: Sreeram Selvaraj, Design: Dominic Xavier
The Complete Coverage | Defence
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