I rarely watch TV as I don’t have one on my floor of our house! However, when there is some breaking news, my father calls me down to the ground floor (where he stays) to watch the same with him. So I really had no idea about the Union Law Minister Salman Khurshid, a man I like, holding a press conference last Sunday where he lost his temper at some journalists. Of course, I was aware of the allegations made against the Zakir Hussain Trust about some hanky panky with government funds meant for physically challenged people. I also knew there was something about forged signatures of top officials of the Uttar Pradesh government. My first reaction was: this must be mere politics. But I was forced to take notice when dad told me that Arvind Kejriwal, the activist turned politician, is taking this issue seriously and raising serious questions about the integrity of the Union Law Minister on TV. If nothing else, the activist turned politician at least deserves our respect for his amazing display of guts and gumption.
A colleague then sent me a clip of the press conference where the Law Minister is clearly telling a journalist that he will see him in court. My fault, but once again I thought that this was more entertainment than news. But I did sit with my father and switch some channels that night, and I did read the newspapers more carefully the next day. And I was horrified. Louise Fernandes Khurshid, the wife of the Union Law Minister and the person who actually runs the Zakir Hussain Trust, has filed a Rs 100 crore civil defamation case against the two channels Aaj Tak and Headlines Today. Nothing surprising about that, for every Indian has the right to file a defamation case if he or she feels aggrieved. But what was horrifying for me was the manner in which the promotor of the group who also publishes India Today, Aroon Purie, was personally targeted. It was genuinely shocking. We had journalists asking Salman Khurshid whether he will resign from his post till an independent enquiry clears his name. He blithely replied that he would resign if Aroon Purie, the promotor of the India Today group, also resigned and if there was an enquiry against Purie and his group. Most horrifying: I found hardly any support in the media fraternity for Aroon Purie and his India Today group. Just imagine the rotten and extremely dangerous precedent this is setting: if, for example, The Hindu were to publish some exposé against any minister, the minister could demand an enquiry against N. Ram. If NDTV were to show an investigative piece against Nitin Gadkari, he would demand an enquiry against Pranoy Roy. If The Times of India were to reveal something embarrassing about any powerful person, then he or she will surely demand an enquiry against Samir and Vineet Jain... I could just go on and on...