Former Lok Sabha secretary-general Subhash C. Kashyap could be in the eye of another storm — this time for appropriating the authorship of a pioneering work on the making of the Constitution.
A source of research for students, lawyers and judges alike, the original five-volume compendium — titled The Framing of India's Constitution — was compiled in the 1960s by a team led by B. Shiva Rao, a member of the Constituent Assembly.
It was the outcome of a project undertaken by the Indian Institute of Public Administration (IIPA) with the blessings of Dr Rajendra Prasad, S Radhakrishnan and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Curiously, in the 2004 second edition of the work Rao’s name has been replaced with Kashyap’s on the cover jacket of the fifth volume, which is ‘A Study’ of the clash of divergent views and interests which influenced the Constitution makers at various stages.
Recently, on the basis of a report of the Privileges Committee, the Lok Sabha had admonished Kashyap for imputing motives to a ruling of the Speaker on a TV programme.
Of the couple of new chapters appended to the fifth volume, one relates to the controversial National Commission to Review the Working of the Constitution (NCRWC) on which Kashyap served as a member during the BJP-NDA rule.
“That such a thing has happened is a sad reflection on the contemporary intellectual scene,” said a constitutional expert. He felt the chapter on the NCRWC detracted from the sanctity of the seminal work.
“What’s particularly galling is the dilution of Shiva Rao’s contribution, despite the reproduction of over 800 pages from the original,” he said.
In fact, the inside cover of the new edition is nothing but a long introduction about Kashyap, who was chief research officer of the original project “for part of time” and not the full six years it took Rao's team to complete the task.
The previous volumes had given credit for the work to all members of the project committee: former IIPA directors V.K.N. Menon and J.N. Khosla, and staffers of the Constituent Assembly Secretariat K.V. Padmanabhan and P.N. Krishna Mani.
The other members of the Rao panel were C. Ganesan (whose association with constitutional reforms in India dated back to 1934), N.K.N. Iyengar (a research officer who served for the full period of the project) and Kashyap.
The reprinted volume Kashyap has presented as his own had, in its first edition, carried a preface by Khosla in which the then IIPA chief clarified that Kashyap was not associated with the work for the entire length of time.
The original volume also carried a foreword by Radhakrishnan and two letters of appreciation by Nehru, one of which was received at the IIPA hours before the former PM's death on May 27, 1964. But in the reprint, these have been replaced by a single-para reference in the foreword by P.L. Sanjeev Reddy, the incumbent IIPA director.
Asked for his comments, Reddy told HT that the IIPA’s committee for its golden-jubilee celebrations “assigned the task to Kashyap in good faith”.
For his part, Kashyap said: “The IIPA commissioned me for the work. It has been done the way they wanted it.”
But another IIPA source attributed the distortions to the institute and Kashyap, who received a Rs 60,000 honorarium for editing, revising and updating the collection. “How could those who monitored the project at our end not notice the change of authorship of the fifth volume while retaining Rao's name on the first four?” asked the source.
From all available indications, IIPA bosses were overwhelmed by Kashyap’s political clout at the time and his exaggerated claims of association with the original work.