By Aires Rodrigues
To be an Advocate was my childhood dream but the momentous moment of my life was when I appeared for the first time before the Supreme Court of India. It was as a college student in 1986. Our then Chief Minister had appointed a Panaji Industrialist as Chairman of Panjim Planning and Development Authority (PDA) as it was then known.
It was my contention that the now late very reputed industrialist was a gentleman but lacked the knowledge of Town and Country Planning required for that post. Having been unsuccessful in challenging it before our High Court, I took the Bombay-Delhi Rajdhani Express to move the Supreme Court.
My petition came up for hearing before a bench headed by the then Chief Justice P.N Bhagwati who, while agreeing that persons with knowledge of Planning and Development should be appointed, very politely declined to intervene ruling that the appointment was prerogative of the Government.
At least in 1986 it was an honest industrialist who was appointed. Later the PDAs have been dens controlled and manipulated by ruling politicians. We have seen how for Panaji an additional layer by way of Greater Panaji Planning and Development Authority was created to accommodate a power hungry political bigwig. That the very same PDA is now scrapped is another issue. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely sums it all.
Raising public issues over the last 40+ years has not been an easy task. But one has to have the spine to speak out against things that are wrong and nothing should deter one’s commitment to highlight any injustice or illegality that is seen. As Martin Luther King said, ‘There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right’.
I am content that over the years I have been able in my own little way to serve society without holding any position of power. One pays a heavy price and fighting public causes does take a toll on your health too. Now at 62, it may be time to slow down but not to be entirely silent. And as Martin Luther advised ‘Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that really matter’.