Barkha continues to be sinned against

( Addressed to Editor, First Post, an online journal, on August 26,2012)

| by B.Raman

( August 27, 2012, Chennai, Sri Lanka Guardian) I read with unhappiness your story titled "Why the fall of Xerox Zakaria is unthinkable in Indian media".My unhappiness arises from the author's attempt to club the case of Fareed Zakaria with Barkha Dutt's in a manner that seeks to tarnish her reputation and professional integrity.

This is not the first time that such an attempt has been made.One had seen similar periodic attempts since 2010-end when excerpts of a recording of a telephone conversation between Barkha Dutt of NDTV and Niiru Radia,a professional lobbyist, were carried by a well-known journal published from New Delhi.The identity of the source which passed on these excerpts to the journal and its motive in doing so remain unclear even today.

I have written repeatedly on this subject in my blog as well as in some of the news websites to which I contribute. The themes of my writings have been on two issues that I consider important.

The first issue relates to extensive and unauthorised ( under the law) tappings of the telephone conversations of a number of people by either a Government department not authorised to do so or a private business entity with its own agenda for doing so and selective leaks from these recordings to the media in order to target the professional reputation of certain individuals who enjoyed a high reputation in society. Rules and orders relating to tapping clearly lay down whose telephones can be tapped, under what circumstances and on whose authority and what precautions are to be taken to ensure that tapping is not misused to violate the right to privacy of individuals and tarnish their reputation.None of these rules, orders and precautions appear to have been observed in this case. This vitiated the entire process from the tapping to the publication by the journal of what appeared to me to be motivated extracts from it. Under the law, when a procedure is vitiated, one cannot use the outcome of the procedure against any individual.

The second issue relates to the alleged professional culpability of Barkha. This arises from the fact that the extracted telephone conversation relates to the interest expressed by Radia to Barkha in the allotment of a Cabinet portfolio to a DMK member of the Lok Sabha.The question of any culpability would arise only if Barkha had taken any follow-up action in pursuance of the interest expressed by Radia. There is no evidence to show that Barkha took any follow-up action. She just evaded the request.

When a person makes an inconvenient request, we react in one of two ways. We bluntly reject it or evade it.Many of us prefer evasion to a blunt "no". When faced with inconvenient requests for help or intervention, I myself often evade. In my view, Barkha's evasion was an honourable way of dealing with such inconvenient reqests. There is no question of her tendering an apology or NDTV initiating any action against her because she has objectively speaking done nothing wrong. It is incorrect and far-fetched to connect Barkha's case with that of Fareed Zakaria who, wittingly or unwittingly, committed an act of plagiarism.He had no other option but to apologise because he had committed a wrongful act. It was generous of his employers to have accepted his apology and treated the matter as closed.

I have served for nearly three decades in the intelligence profession ---- creditably and honourably as I like to believe. I knew that by openly defending Barkha I would run the risk of obnoxious motives being attributed to me and my own personal and professional integrity being questioned. I reflected over it considerably before I openly came out in support of her for two reasons. Firstly, after an evaluation of the facts of the case in my mind, I was convinced she had done nothing wrong that warranted an apology by her or action against her by NDTV. Secondly, as a fair-minded person, I felt I would not be worth my salt as a senior professional, if I did not publicly defend a young and highly-talented professional whose reputation stood in danger of being tarnished by what appeared to me to be motivated allegations.

( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi. E-mail: . Twitter @SORBONNE75 )