A lengthy but interesting read from Slate:
Recent Supreme Court opinions suggest there are five votes to abolish capital punishment.
An ominous sign for government
31 Jan 2012 11:31:00 PM IST
Here is a telling contrast in fighting corruption. The nation has seen in the last couple of years two distinct endeavours to fight corruption. One is the fight for a new anti-corruption law with the blessings of even the suspects. And the other is identifying the suspects and fighting them under existing laws. Anna Hazare and his team have launched an agitation for an anti-corruption law — the Lokpal Bill — without which, they told the nation, corruption could not be fought or contained. In their enterprise against corruption they first appealed to Sonia Gandhi for her support to fight corruption! And she also wrote to Anna offering her support! Subramanian Swamy, on the other hand, took the view that corruption could well be fought under the existing anti-corruption law provided the corrupt are targeted directly. First, he filed an application with the prime minister for prosecuting A Raja for his role in the 2G scam. Next he applied to the prime minister for sanction to prosecute Sonia Gandhi, whose support Anna had sought to stop corruption. Swamy, a seasoned politician and accomplished intellectual, knew that without the visible picture of the corrupt, corruption is a theoretical issue — a point which the apolitical Anna and team had missed.
How Subramanian Swamy has cornered the UPA finally is not a complex story. The 2G licence issue had all the trappings of an open air theatre scam from the day the licences were fraudulently issued, namely, on January 10, 2008. When the government was covering up the 2G issue, everyone was merely wondering how to fix the government. But Swamy acted. He filed an application on November 24, 2008, with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for permission to prosecute A Raja who had issued the 2G licences. At that time Raja was a powerful minister in the ministry of UPA-I, being from the DMK that was dominant in the alliance. The anti-corruption law mandates that no court can look at a complaint against a public servant “except with the previous sanction” of the authority competent to remove the public servant from office. Since Raja was a minister, who could be removed by the PM, Swamy approached the PM for the sanction.
The likes of Sibals and Chidambarams were perhaps laughing at Swamy. But Swamy persisted. He kept on writing letters to the prime minister reminding him about his application. He ceaselessly kept talking about it in public and through the media. But the prime minister, as he is sworn to in most matters, kept silent. The silence of the PM had made the government and the ruling party happy. But Swamy moved the Delhi High Court for a direction to the PM to take a decision on his plea. The high court dismissed Swamy’s petition. The ruling government and party were in ecstasy. But, undeterred, Swamy moved the Supreme Court. The PM had written to Swamy on March 10, 2010, that Swamy’s plea for prosecuting Raja was premature as the CBI was investigating the matter — a response authored by amateur legalism. After having trivialised Swamy thus, on April 26, 2010, the PM told the media — which asked him whether Raja’s statement that he had the approval of the PM to do what he did — that Raja had consulted him before issuing the licences. That what the PM had accepted as consultation, Raja has asserted as permission.
Swamy also complained to the Supreme Court about the inordinate delay by the PM in deciding the matter. Meanwhile, the 2G issue had exploded on the face of the government with the report of the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) of India saying that the loss to the government was, on the lower side, some `69,000 crore and could be as high as `1,75,000 crore. The Supreme Court, seeing the government prevaricating at all levels, began monitoring the CBI investigation of the scam. The petition by Swamy too became part of the 2G scam litigation in the Supreme Court. The CBI did file charge-sheets in some cases of scam, including Raja as an accused in all except one. But Swamy’s plea to the PM to prosecute Raja and the PM’s inaction on it survived for consideration by the Supreme Court. The apex court did go deep into the matter, called for the records of the PMO and asked for an explanation from the PMO for the delay. By now, the ruling party and the government stopped laughing at Swamy. It became the turn of Swamy to laugh at them. It is the plea of Swamy to the PM to allow him to prosecute Raja which has been decided by the Supreme Court on January 31, 2012, in a landmark judgment.
First, the court has set aside the judgment of the Delhi High Court that had refused to direct the PM to decide on Swamy’s plea. Second, it has ruled that it is the constitutional right of a citizen to move to prosecute any public servant. Third, the authority to whom the application is made for permission to prosecute should take a decision within three months and if, within four months, no decision is taken, the permission shall be deemed to be granted. The import of the Supreme Court judgment is evident. The court has clearly indicted Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for delaying the decision on Swamy’s plea. It has also directed him to decide on Swamy’s plea in 90 days. The court has also said that Parliament should lay down the guidelines for 2G prosecution. Finally, the court has said that for ordering inquiries into corruption against any public servant, criminal courts do not need sanction.
It may appear at the first sight that the judgment is against Raja and the PM. But, in substance, it is just an ant-bite on Raja and an embarrassment for the PM. Raja, already charge-sheeted, is in jail. The PM will have no difficulty in allowing one more complaint — that of Swamy — against Raja. But the real danger lies in the other application by Swamy — for permission to prosecute Sonia Gandhi — which the PM has labelled as “premature” and ducked. Under the anti-corruption law, the PM can sack Sonia, the chairperson of National Advisory Council, even though he himself may be removed by her. Swamy can now ask the PM whether the complaint has matured. He can also move the criminal court for inquiry against Sonia Gandhi for which, the Supreme Court has ruled, no sanction is needed. Swamy’s statement that he “can bypass Vadra and go straight to Sonia” is ominous. The Congress cannot laugh at him now.
(Views expressed in the column are the author’s own)
S Gurumurthy is a well-known commentator on political and economic issues.
It was not long ago that P.Chidambaram appealed to the Sikh community to put the massacre of the Sikhs at rest and to move forward. This when 100 times more persons of the minority community were massacred-brutalized, raped and killed. Time to move on was his appeal. But when it comes to the Gujarat riots it has to be fixed at that riot incident-Time and again it has been used against Modi. Come elections the NGOs canvass with the CDs of the riots-the wailing and the weeping of the victims and their relatives must be kept ever fresh. Why this double standard? Did the Congress leaders not lead the massacre brigade and supervise the killings of the Sikhs? Did not the Delhi government abet it by silently watching the burning and the killings? Did not Rajiv Gandhi justify this? So what moral right has the Congress to fault Modi and his government? It must be also noted that this is not the first time Gujarat witnessed riots-not only Gujarat but all over India there have been any number of riots. No one person has been maligned as Modi has been.
Vote bank politics has marred every single perception and action of the UPA government. There have been 7 attacks since 2010 after P. Chidambaram became the Home Minister. The Sept 7th bomb blast at gate 5 of the Delhi High court is the 8th attack. This left 13 dead and 88 injured. PC has suddenly become color blind. He who was so obsessed with ‘saffron’ terror suddenly finds just these as terror attacks and is quick also in his briefing to Parliament to caution the country of Naxal terror. No lessons learned. The issue before him is Islamic terror and he is afraid even to term it so. It becomes just terror. And our PM joins in the chorus to mouth hollow words that the perpetrators would be punished. In which terror attack has the perpetrators been punished may we know? So why mouth such promises?
Rahul Gandhi goes to visit the victims of the Sept High court bomb blast at the RML hospital. He has forgotten to think because he had earlier stated after his famous draft reading in Parliament that he took so long to react to the LokPal bill because he had to think. Well one does not know if to read a draft one has to put on the thinking cap and take such a long period of thinking. When he visited the hospital he did not utter a single word. Either he forgot to put his thinking cap on or there were no draft writers by his side. Can this crown prince not spontaneously offer a few words of comfort and listen to the anguish of the grieving victims. And we are promised that this youth icon will bring in much desired change.
This brings up corruption. The Congress advises the rest not to politicize corruption. The same song it sings for every issue ‘Don’t politicize terror attacks’-‘don’t politicize corruption is the litany the Congress leaders chorus. But there is politics in corruption. It is the vested interest of the politicians that gave birth to corruption. It is the greed for power that makes the politicians abet corruption and it is the attraction to status and power that makes the politicians to sell his/her conscience and become corrupt. In the process they corrupt others too. And as long as the Congress is the mother head of corruption one cannot expect the Congress to fight corruption. It is now blatantly stated in the emails which are circulated that “Mrs Sonia Gandhi, the most powerful woman is the most corrupt”. It is not just only one person nay the family too. No wonder it is also said that it took 100 years for Tata to become a billionaire, it took 50 years for Ambani to become a billionaire but it has taken only ten years for Robert Vadra to become a billionaire. From where does this money for chartered planes-treatment in the USA-special facility apartment there et al and lavish spending come from? So it is understandable when one is so filthy rich that Mrs Priyanka Vadra can toss her head and order her two storied house in Himachal Pradesh to be razed to the ground. A new site to be bought and new house to be built. A house in which crores and crores would have been spent is just to be demolished because it did not suit the environment and her fancy. All this after she had been supervising and instructing while the construction was on. Did she not know what materials were used for it? This I narrate only as an example of the arrogance of money power. No second thoughts .We see children by the seaside kick the sand castles and built new ones according to their whims. The same kind of attitude and mindset was displayed by Mrs Vadra which is a dangerous streak and exhibits a disdain for loss of money and labor. The mention of this is also meant to prove that Rahul Gandhi’s multi prong strategy to fight corruption is a farce and mere rhetoric. He has to clean up his own household first.
We had Chidambaram the other day stating that communalizing violence is dangerous. We are no fools and we know what made PC make such a statement. This government will not fight terrorism because it will not embarrass the Muslims. This is clear in it bringing up the Communal violence bill which just will not fight communalism but abets communalism. First the National Advisory Council had no business to draft such a bill. The NAC which is an unconstitutional body acts as a super cabinet and a mini Parliament. This was meant to give a cabinet ranking to Mrs. Sonia and legitimize her face in all the GOI advertisements. Second it has also all Modi bashers and baiters as members. It has a hidden agenda and is biased. Hence the communal violence bill is pro minority and anti majority. How can it fight communalism when the very premise of it abets communalism?
Dr Mrs Hilda Raja,
Will Afzal Guru be next? We can hope, can’t we?
Gaurang G. Vaishnav
Clemency petition of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan turned down, to face death sentence.
President Pratibha Patil has rejected the clemency petitions of three killers of Rajiv Gandhi whose death sentences were confirmed by the Supreme Court in 2000.
The apex court had sentenced members of the banned Liberation Tigers of Tamil Elam (LTTE) Murugan, Santhan, Perarivalan and Nalini to death in 1999 for the assassination of the former Prime Minister in Sriperumbudur on May 21, 1991.
A Rasthrapati Bhavan spokesperson said the clemency petitions of all three accused were turned down by the President last week.
The apex court had confirmed the death sentence of Murugan, Santhan and Perarivalan while commuting Nalini’s sentence to life imprisonment.
The trio, charged with criminal conspiracy and execution of the suicide attack plot, had filed mercy petition before the President after confirmation of sentence by the apex court.
The Home Ministry had sent its opinion on June 21, 2005 which was called back for review on February 23, 2011 and was re-submitted to the President on March 8 this year.
Earlier, in May, the President had rejected mercy petitions of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar of Punjab and Mahendra Nath Das of Assam following the recommendations from the Union Home Ministry.
Bhullar was sentenced to death by a trial court on August 25, 2001, for plotting terror attacks on Punjab SSP Sumedh Singh Saini in 1991 and the then Youth Congress president M S Bitta in 1993. Das was found guilty of murdering one Hara Kanta Das.
Express news service Posted: Tue Jul 12 2011, 03:17 hrsNew Delhi:
The Supreme Court on Monday sought an explanation from the Delhi Police regarding the midnight crackdown at a camp organised by yoga guru Baba Ramdev against corruption. The court also questioned the need for resorting to teargas shells and lathi-charge in a closed enclosure, where people were sleeping.
A bench of Justices B S Chauhan and Swatanter Kumar asked for responses from the Delhi Home Secretary and the Delhi Police, while posting the case for hearing on July 25.
Referring to Ramdev’s reply in support of his claim that a yoga camp was on at Ramlila Maidan, the bench observed that there are documents and DVDs to show that yoga was undertaken.
The court said it may even view over 30 hard disks of footage to help determine what really happened at the site.
Ramdev had, in his reply, blamed Home Minister P Chidambaram for the entire incident, saying the decision to arrest him was taken well in advance. The yoga guru asked the court to issue a notice to the Home Minister personally.
While the court asked for a reply from the Home ministry, no clarification has been sought from Chidambaram personally.
The government had said that instead of a mass-yoga class for 5,000 people, for which the permission was sought, there were close to 65,000 people present on the grounds.
Senior advocate Ram Jethmalani, appearing for Ramdev, said a detailed response was required from the police on why they used water-cannons and teargas, putting Ramdev’s followers at the Maidan in harm’s way. He termed the police action as “murder of democracy”.
EDITS | Tuesday, June 14, 2011 | 2:03:11 AM
A Surya Prakash
The Congress’s fascist reaction to the anti-corruption movement shows the party still remains unchanged. Its misdeeds remind us of the 1975-77 Emergency.
The Congress-led UPA Government is sadly mistaken if it thinks that its ruthless Gaddafi-style midnight operation to evict Baba Ramdev and his supporters from Ramlila Maidan in the early hours of June 5 will crush the movement against corruption in the country. The Government’s action, which is reminiscent of the response of Mrs Indira Gandhi to charges of corruption in the mid-1970s, only goes to show that nothing much has changed within the Congress. It continues to function like a family-owned private limited company whose promoters have fascist tendencies and remain extremely vulnerable to charges of corruption.
Apart from ending the mass satyagraha at the venue in Delhi, the Congress has launched a vituperative attack on Baba Ramdev, calling him a “thug” and a “fraud” and raising questions about the funding of his organisation. There is nothing new in this. These very tactics were deployed against Anna Hazare and his team members in April. An identical operation is now on to paint Baba Ramdev in ugly colours.
The Government is rattled by Baba Ramdev’s movement because it strikes at the root of the problem — money stashed away in Swiss banks by politicians and businessmen. The Anna Hazare movement got confined to the limited issue of establishing a national ombudsman (Lok Pal) to deal with corruption at the highest level. But, the creation of such an institution is just one of the many initiatives that need to be taken. Since corruption is a hydra-headed monster that has affected all aspects of politics, governance and life, what is needed is a comprehensive anti-corruption agenda that seeks to tackle the problem at the root and throw up permanent remedies.
For example, money power has vitiated the entire electoral process since the beginning and the humongous amounts spent by candidates in State Assembly and Lok Sabha elections has made a mockery of the spending limits imposed by the Election Commission. Over the last two decades, the permissible spending in a Lok Sabha constituency in a large State has more than trebled.
Just three monmths ago, the Conduct of Election Rules were amended yet again to enhance the maximum election expenditure in Lok Sabha and Assembly constituencies to Rs 40 lakh and Rs 16 lakh respectively. However, those who track election-spending are aware that even this revised limit will be observed more in the breach than than in the observance because in recent years the average spending by serious candidates in Lok Sabha constituencies is between Rs 3 crore and Rs 5 crore.
All of this is black money — some generated within the country and the rest brought back fromSwitzerlandand tax havens likeLiechtenstein. Therefore, any anti-corruption initiative must first deal with the issue of black money vitiating the electoral process and making a mockery of the democratic system. We need to accord high priority to this problem.
The second most important source of corruption is Government contracts. It is long established that those who run the Government and the ruling party get kickbacks on every deal. In the early decades after independence when the licence-permit-quota raj held sway, bribes and commissions were paid in Indian rupees. Later, after Mrs Indira Gandhi returned to power in 1980, the Congress chose a new route for political funding — kickbacks from international deals which are paid into secret accounts in Switzerland and other tax havens.
Those who have worked in Government at senior levels — for instance, Mr BG Deshmukh who was Cabinet Secretary during Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister — have noted that since the 1980s, the Congress has found it more convenient to take commissions from foreign companies in international deals rather than pass the hat around among Indian businessmen and industrialists to collect party funds. This way, huge sums can be collected to fund the party without any obligation to industrial houses within the country. It was presumed that there would be no whiff of corruption if discreet payments were made to Swiss bank accounts.
This grand plan, however, went for a toss when the Swedish Audit Bureau reported that arms manufacturer AB Bofors had paid ‘commission’ to certain individuals in connection with the sale of field guns to India in 1986. Despite that embarrassment, there is no indication of any change in the attitude of the Congress towards collecting funds. This is also the reason why the party is dragging its feet on the black money issue.
When the pressure from the Supreme Court became unbearable, the Government cleverly announced the setting up of a “high-powered committee” to keep the court at bay. This committee is supposed to examine the problem and outline a plan of action to bring back the loot. The Government offered a similar bait to Baba Ramdev the other day, offering to set up “a committee” to draft a law to bring back black money.
After making this offer, the Government claimed that it had met “all the demands” of Baba Ramdev and wanted him to end his satyagraha. When he failed to oblige, the Government responded with police brutality. The use of brute force to end a peaceful agitation is reminiscent of the Emergency days. This was exactly how Mrs Indira Gandhi responded to Jayaprakash Narayan’s campaign against corruption 36 years ago.
In fact, the parallels between 1974-75 and 2010-11 are striking. Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement began with the campaign against corruption in Gujarat and with the demand that then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi probe the allegations against LN Mishra, a senior Minister in her Cabinet. Mrs Indira Gandhi did none of this. Instead, she used brute force to crush the movement.
Mr Manmohan Singh, too, has resorted to an Emergency-style operation to crush the satyagraha at Ramlila Maidan. Also, in typical Mrs Indira Gandhi fashion, he has defended the midnight police raid and said the Government had no option but to resort to such action. There are other eerie coincidences. It should be remembered that Mrs Indira Gandhi imposed her dreaded Emergency in 1975 after a massive Opposition rally which, incidentally, was held at Ramlila Maidan and in June.
This only shows that more things change, the more the Congress remains the same. The party continues to be extremely vulnerable when corruption is discussed and the party’s fascist tendencies come to the fore whenever its Government is cornered on this issue. That is why all those who believe in democracy need to be on high alert after Mr Singh’s Ramlila Maidan operation. Needless to say, eternal vigilance is the price of democracy.
June 13, 2011 10:52:12 AM
Whenever politicians are caught with their hand in the till they cry foul and claim innocence. M Karunanidhi’s defence of Kanimozhi demonstrates this point.
The paterfamilias of the first family of the DMK which was routed in the recent Assembly election, has said that his daughter Kanimozhi, a Rajya Sabha MP who is in jail for her alleged role in the 2G Spectrum scandal, has been imprisoned “either because of an instruction from the Centre or due to the negligence of the Centre”. Earlier, Mr M Karunanidhi, had also said that “bad friendship” would end in trouble.
According to the CBI’s chargesheet, Kanimozhi was arrested along with the managing director of Kalaignar TV for allegedly receiving `200 crore in the 2G Spectrum allocation scam. Mr Karunanidhi, however, claimed that the investigating agency had arrested his daughter as it needed someone to take the blame.
Having seen the CBI work from close quarters, I know for a fact that whenever a politician involved in a scam or a scandal is arrested, the standard response is that he or she has been falsely implicated and that it is a part of vendetta against an innocent person. I have also noticed that politicians and the truth rarely go hand-in-hand. Moreover, if the politician has held a position of power, his or her approach has generally been to loot as much as possible as if there is no tomorrow and he or she would never be held accountable.
In this context, I am reminded of a dialogue between dharma and the eldest Pandav brother, Yudhisthir. dharma asked Yudhisthir, “What is the biggest wonder of the world?” Yudhisthir replied, “The biggest wonder of the world is that people should see others dying and still somehow believe that death will bypass them.” In other words, people tend to forget that nature too works along Newton’s Third Principle: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
In the name of coalition dharma, partners in a coalition tend to become law unto themselves. Minority partners hold the majority party at gunpoint and the latter conveniently looks away so that they may all continue to remain in power. Yet, no dharma permits such adharma that allows the evil of corruption to thrive. In our country, the laws have been so framed that any investigation may be strangled by the Government at any step.
For example, according to the CVC Act the CBI cannot start any investigation against any officer of the level of Joint Secretary and above, which would include Ministers, without the Government’s sanction that can come only after the matter has been investigated. Thus, the CBI or any anti-corruption agency is left to deal with peons and clerks or junior officials at best, when everybody knows that the rot starts at the top.
The UPA Government went all out to save former Telecommunications Minister A Raja for nearly14 months, till such time the Supreme Court took over the monitoring of investigations into the 2G Spectrum scam. Only after that was A Raja arrested and a case registered against him. Three months later, Kanimozhi was also put behind bars. Now, the politicians are making a fine distinction between what is moral and what is legal as a subterfuge to escape punishment for their crimes. The Government, of course, is still doing its best to save the thieves and robbers, especially if they happen to belong to the ruling alliance. The only barrier that stands in its way is the judiciary.
This is not the case only in India; it is the same the world over. The famous American journalist Frank I Cobb once said about the US what is now equally applicable to India: “If the author of the Declaration of Independence were to utter such a sentiment today, the Post Office Department could exclude him from the mail, grand juries could indict him for sedition and criminal syndicalism, legislative committees could seize his private papers … and United States Senators would be clamouring for his deportation that he… should be sent back to live with the rest of the terrorists.”
The system today continues to be unjust to the masses with the result that people with lots of money and the ability to afford expensive lawyers often go unpunished. Regarding the Government’s indifference to the criminal justice system, the Supreme Court recently said, “The criminal justice system has been destroyed by the Government. They are not providing (adequate) funds to the police and the courts.” The observation only proves that the Government has actually done more than enough to bail out criminals, contrary to what Mr Karunanidhi would like to believe.
Moreover, by ensuring that the CBI remains under-staffed and hamstrung, the Government has significantly weakened its main anti-corruption agency as well. According to the CBI’s data, some 915 posts at the executive officers level — these include positions for Inspectors, Sub-Inspectors, Deputy Superintendents of Police, Superintendents of Police, Deputy Inspectors-General, Additional and Special Directors, Law Officers — are currently vacant. Hence, Mr Karunanidhi’s charge that the Union Government has not done enough to save his daughter does not stand up to scrutiny.
The only reason why Kanimozhi is in jail is because her case is being directly monitored by the Supreme Court. Once a case comes under the scrutiny of the judiciary, the Government has no say and cannot even direct the CBI. However, the abuse and misuse of the police and other law enforcement agencies will continue unless they are given a constitutional status. But we can only dream about such things since no politician would like to place a noose around his or her own neck. The State Governments have not even implemented the September 2006 directives of the Supreme Court for minimum reforms within the police department.
Mr Karunanidhi’s statements thus reflect the mindset of today’s politicians who, like our erstwhile colonial rulers, are habituated to using the police as puppets to implement their wishes as was evident during the eviction of Baba Ramdev and his supporters from Delhi — they had gathered to protest against corruption and press their demand that the Government should bring back the black money stashed in safe havens abroad.
It is a fact that fighting corruption has never been on the agenda of any political party. Though there are some honest politicians, most others use black money to fund their election campaign. This is done with the explicit help of the Government. Therefore, it is the Government’s duty to ensure that everyone declares their source of income. But perhaps it is never going to happen. So anybody who leads a movement against black money and corruption would be doing a signal service.
Many people say that democracy does not work. Of course it works. But we are the ones who have to make it work.