During UPA rule, Kapil Sibal as minister held many important portfolios like Human Resource Development, Ministry of Communications & IT, Science & Technology and Law & Justice. He had a good chance to bringing about many reforms and achieving a lot of things.
But in the end he is known more for his duds. A look at some of them…
1. Section 66A: This Draconian law was briefly called Sibal’s law by many commentators. It ruled that anyone could be arrested for causing “annoyance, inconvenience, danger, obstruction, insult, injury, criminal intimidation, enmity, hatred or ill will” in the online world.
Such was its expansive sweep and it looked unconstitutional even to a layman. People were arrested for posting cartoons, forwarding spoofs, posting harmless Facebook posts and even liking them! There was outrage in Twitter after every arrest (a lot of hashtags like #Emergency201, #GOIBlocks #No66A ruled) but it stayed well into 2014.
A popular website declared Sibal as one of the top five technology train wrecks of 2011.
The dynasty has been lethal for free speech in India. Jawaharlal Nehru introduced the First Amendment. Indira Gandhi imposed the Emergency. Rajiv Gandhi’s anti-libel law was thankfully shelved.
And now Section 66A introduced when Sonia Gandhi was running the country has thankfully been struck down.
But the question to be asked is that Sibal himself is an expert lawyer and didn’t he see the unconstitutionality of the law he had framed? The sad part is that absolutely no action can be taken against him.
Also there is something called Section 69 by which the Centre and all State governments and their agencies can “intercept, monitor or decrypt any information generated, transmitted, received or stored in any computer resource”.
2. Zero loss theory: The Comptroller & Auditor General cited a loss to the government exchequer in the tune of Rs 1.76 lakh crore in the 2G scam. While a lot of people found that inflated, Sibal gave a bizarre press conference and gave some bizarre calculations in what was later termed a “zero loss theory”.
Sibal was a laughing stock on Twitter but the government supported him fully.
While the 2012 telecom auctions went under Rs 10,000 crores, the current ones have already crossed Rs 1 lakh crore. The coal auctions have hit the roof and all of UPA’s policies have been exposed.
Sibal has ended up being the biggest zero in all this mess.
3. Aakash Tablet: It was an ambitious project to link 25,000 colleges but it proved to be a dud in the end. Found totally wanting by users, it was found to have a host of problems like hanging frequently and the inability to download free software from the Internet.
Some even alleged that the manufacturer of Aakash was a fraud company. Either way it was a big failure for Sibal’s brainchild.
4. Right to Education: The naming of the act could be dubbed incorrect. India’s education is in government schools. The sheer number of government schools and their dilapidated condition is a matter of concern.
But Sibal made absolutely no effort to modernize government schools and bring them up to mark. Instead he introduced reservation into private schools which will benefit a small minority in no way give quality education to the millions of poor schoolchildren who desperately need it.
Private schools have also shown resistance and it has been seen that there are a lot of minor issues that have to be still worked out. It also doesn’t apply to “private minority schools” and boarding schools though, further bringing down the number it can benefit.
Sibal’s “no fail” policy has also led to many complaining that students are no longer taking their examinations seriously. Parents in rural interest also lost interest in their children’s studies since they can’t fail.
5. 2014 Lok Sabha elections: As late as March 2014 the arrogant Sibal was full of bluster and grandly declared that there was no Modi wave and the BJP would get a mere 120 seats. Well Sibal couldn’t even retain his own Lok Sabha seat and was soundly thrashed at the hustings. He wasn’t even the runner up!
He is back to being a lawyer and has agreed to argue the case for one and all be it the Saradha scam for the Trinamool Congress (a move for which he was blasted within his own party circles) and the tainted activist Teesta Setalvad.
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The author is a Bangalore-based journalist and blogger. He blogs here