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VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk
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VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk

Shruti Mahajan

Straight Talk, a book penned by Senior Advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, was released by Vice President of India Venkaiah Naidu yesterday. Former Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh, who has penned the foreword for Singhvi’s Book, also attended the book release and delivered a special address.

‘Straight Talk’ is a compilation of sixty-three of Singhvi’s articles categorised in seven chapters ranging from governance, society, terrorism and the Judiciary to the media, nuclear trends and icons and heroes.

The book release was followed by a panel discussion on “India at 71: Hits and Misses” with Abhishek Manu Singhvi, along with Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Jyotiraditya Scindia, Trinamool Congress leader Dinesh Trivedi, and DMK leader A Kanimozhi on the panel. The discussion was moderated by Barkha Dutt.

VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk

Vice-President Naidu, after officially releasing the book, said that Singhvi is not only one of India’s leading lawyers, but is also a seasoned politician and has made a mark for himself in Parliamentary debates.

He said that as the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, he is happy to have Singhvi as a colleague in the Upper House. Touching upon the subjects covered by Singhvi in his new book, Naidu agreed with Singhvi’s recommendations made vis-à-vis media regulation, judicial activism, parliamentary proceedings et al.

VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk

Dr Manmohan Singh, in his special address, said that the one word that comes to his mind for this book is “fusion”.

“He [Singhvi] has fused intellectual issues with the daily diversity of life in a highly communicative form making it readable for a large section of people.”

Dr. Singh said that a vibrant democracy is constituted of five institutions – Parliament, Executive, Judiciary, Media and Civil Society – and that Singhvi has established his role in all these spheres.

VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk

The panel discussion commenced shortly after the book was officially released. This discussion delved into various aspects including secularism, electoral politics, the Judiciary, and the economy.

On the topic of the Judiciary and Collegium recommendations, Singhvi, in a no-holds barred approach, opined that the Judiciary should start issuing contempt notices to the government when Collegium recommendations and reiterations are sent back.

Singhvi, sharing statistics and figures stated in his book, said that the ideal number of judges in a country should be 50 for every 1 million people. While most countries do with thirty to forty judges per million people, India stands at a shocking 14.

The Judiciary as well as the Executive, are responsible for this gap, Singhvi stated.

“It is like having lots of nice hospitals but no doctors for treatment”, he said.

Singhvi said that there are judgments of the Supreme Court which say that if a recommendation is made once, the government has the right to reject it; but if the recommendation is reiterated, the government has to accept it.

VP Venkaiah Naidu, former PM Manmohan Singh at launch of Abhishek Manu Singhvi’s book Straight Talk

On Justice KM Joseph’s candidature for appointment as a judge to the apex court, Singhvi called it “bizarre”. 

P Chidambaram added,

“In Justice Joseph’s case, the fault is on Judiciary’s part for not reiterating the recommendation.”

Although, he said that this case is an exception, normally the fault lies with the government.

Justice KM Joseph’s name was recommended by the Supreme Court Collegium along with now-Justice Indu Malhotra. The government had cleared only Justice Malhotra’s name and rejected Justice KM Joseph’s candidature, giving rise to a big controversy.