Congress must act de­ci­sively as cases against the for­mer FM and his son con­tinue to pile up, writes Vi­rag Gupta

Congress must act de­ci­sively as cases against the for­mer FM and his son con­tinue to pile up

DNA (Delhi) - - Front Page - BY IN­VI­TA­TION VI­RAG GUPTA The au­thor is a Supreme Court lawyer and an ex­pert in Con­sti­tu­tional af­fairs. Views ex­pressed are per­sonal

The rai­son d’être of Prime Min­is­ter Modi’s suc­cess is that he car­ries no bag­gage of fam­ily. De­void of fil­ial ties, Modi has his mind sin­gu­larly fo­cused on his mis­sion, a lux­ury that most other lead­ers do not en­joy. Congress has been marred by al­le­ga­tions of dy­nas­tic pol­i­tics, which is said to be work­ing for the Fam­ily’s in­ter­est. The fact that un­der UPA, the Gov­ern­ment was be­ing run from 10 Jan­path and not 7 Race Course is said to be an open se­cret. As per­haps one son brought Congress’ down­fall in 2014, another son Karti may be more dis­as­trous in the elec­tion year.

Congress’s con­tin­ued at­tach­ment to Karti Chi­dambaram, who had in a failed at­tempt con­tested on its ticket from his fa­ther’s con­stituency in 2014, is un­der­stand­able. But in the INX Me­dia case as of now, Karti has been ar­rested by the CBI and re­mains in ju­di­cial cus­tody but the En­force­ment Direc­torate (ED) too is tight­en­ing its noose around him.

Karti’s mi­nor vic­to­ries be­fore the courts could only be se­cured by a bat­tery of il­lus­tri­ous lawyers, in­clud­ing his fa­ther. His act of wav­ing and rais­ing his hand tri­umphantly was per­ceived as an act of ar­ro­gance. How­ever, the judge­ment of the peo­ple’s court is very dif­fer­ent from that of the court of law.

Af­ter the INX con­tro­versy, the ED has re­port­edly scru­ti­nised 2,721 FIPB files cleared by P Chi­dambaram out of which 54 are said to be doubt­ful while in seven cases, other than the INX cor­rup­tion case, he is un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Dur­ing in­ves­ti­ga­tion, it has been re­vealed that soon af­ter the FIPB ap­provals, Ad­van­tage Con­sult­ing, an en­tity al­leged to be as­so­ci­ated with Karti regis­tered its first in­voice and many soon fol­lowed. The fact that this was in­deed bribe money is some­thing that the in­ves­ti­gat­ing au­thor­i­ties will have to prove be­fore court.

The Karti episode brings to light in­stances of rel­a­tives of politi­cians ben­e­fit­ing from their of­fi­cial po­si­tions. The list in this re­gard is long and across the party par­a­digm, rang­ing from Robert Vadra, Ja­gan Mo­han Reddy, wife of for­mer Hi­machal CM Virb­hadra Singh and Ran­jan Bhat­tacharya, the fos­ter son-in­law of for­mer PM Atal Bi­hari Va­j­payee.

The Supreme Court last month gave its judge­ment in the Lok Pra­hari case wherein it stated, “A clean and fair elec­toral process is a sine qua non for any democ­racy.” It also stated that “the ex­pe­ri­ence of the first 50 years of the func­tion­ing of democ­racy in this coun­try dis­closed some un­de­sir­able trends that have crept into its work­ing.” The Supreme Court noted that un­due ac­cre­tion of as­sets by the leg­is­la­tors is a sign of fail­ing democ­racy and that other coun­tries have al­ready taken steps to counter the same. To en­sure the lag­gard­ness of the Gov­ern­ment does not mean doom for democ­racy, the Apex Court di­rected con­tin­u­ous mon­i­tor­ing of as­sets of leg­is­la­tors and their as­so­ciates. It di­rected that Rule 4 of Elec­tions Rules and Form 26 that is filed at the time of elec­tions be suit­ably amended. If PM Modi wants to ful­fill his prom­ise to re­form the po­lit­i­cal sys­tem, he should im­me­di­ately en­force the Apex Court’s direc­tions.

As per Trans­parency In­ter­na­tional’s Cor­rup­tion Per­cep­tion In­dex in 2017, In­dia’s rank­ing has slipped by two places when com­pared to last year, which ei­ther sig­ni­fies wors­en­ing cor­rup­tion in In­dia or im­prove­ment by other coun­tries. Ques­tions have arisen on the need for In­dia to have a leg­is­la­tion to stop cor­rup­tion aris­ing from con­flict of in­ter­est. Leg­is­la­tors hav­ing busi­ness in­ter­ests in a par­tic­u­lar sec­tor have been seen to be present on pan­els and bod­ies, de­cid­ing cru­cial poli­cies for the same. Ad­vance­ment of pri­vate in­ter­ests while be­ing a pub­lic ser­vant is not only dere­lic­tion of duty, but also shows moral de­cay.

Re­search shows that can­di­dates dur­ing elec­tions, on an av­er­age spend five times more than the pre­scribed limit. Ex­or­bi­tant amounts spent dur­ing elec­tions is sought to be re­cov­ered, as a re­turn on in­vest­ment, as if pol­i­tics is busi­ness. Apart from the above on­go­ing abuses, out of to­tal 4,910 MPs and MLAs about 1,700 of them are al­ready fac­ing crim­i­nal charges. De­spite huge as­sets, par­lia­men­tar­i­ans have made pro­vi­sions for post re­tire­ment pen­sions, which is un­der chal­lenge be­fore the Apex Court.

Be­fore be­com­ing the prime min­is­ter, Modi had said that the Par­lia­ment is a tem­ple which should be free from crim­i­nals and cor­rupt peo­ple. The BJP Gov­ern­ment formed the SIT as per direc­tions of Supreme Court and claimed to be wag­ing a war on black money. The Karti episode, along with the judge­ment in the Lok Pra­hari Case, gives gov­ern­ment agen­cies a chance to wage a real war against po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion. If the fi­nan­cial au­dit of po­lit­i­cal fam­i­lies is also done, it may ex­pose many other big fish apart from Karti and high­light the true ex­tent of cor­rup­tion and black money in the po­lit­i­cal space.

For­mer Tele­com Min­is­ter A Raja was saved in the 2G scam by plead­ing that no wrong had been com­mit­ted by him since it was a col­lec­tive de­ci­sion of the Cab­i­net. P Chi­dambaram is also try­ing to take a sim­i­lar de­fence to es­cape from his al­leged crim­i­nal li­a­bil­ity. Though the In­come Tax, ED and CBI look to be be­hind their heels, the pub­lic has so far had lit­tle hope of the ‘caged par­rots’ abil­ity to ex­pose the real bene­fac­tors of il­le­gal en­rich­ment. The Karti Chi­dambaram case, if in­ves­ti­gated suc­cess­fully, could well change all that.

The Karti Chi­dambaram episode brings to light in­stances of rel­a­tives of politi­cians ben­e­fit­ing from their of­fi­cial po­si­tions

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