Why corruption is not ending in India

Following the recent Modi-Karti scam, both Congress and BJP have attacked each other to win political brownie points.

 |  5-minute read |   05-03-2018
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Plagued by corruption, India’s governance does not have the will to do anything about it. The recent Nirav Modi-Choksi-Karti scams have produced two political reactions. Both Congress and the BJP have decided to make an ugly diatribe against each other to win political brownie points by targeting opponents.

Following Bofors, Rajiv Gandhi lost the election because of allegations of corruption against him and others. He tried his best to cover up by absolution from a Parliamentary Joint Committee. The Lokpal Bill would have been passed in 1987 to focus on Rajiv Gandhi, but Chidambaram came to his rescue with a Prevention of Corruption Act 1988.

Media trial

But the message to the electorate was “raja chor hai” (king is a thief). In the 2014 election, the BJP drummed up corruption charges again. There was enough on the plate (2G, coal scam, etc). In the present scenario — the Nirav-Choksi-Karti scams — the blame game triumphs over all else. Who helped Nirav? Congress or BJP?

The allegations are often cheap. Why did Chidambaram and his wife Nalini attend Karti’s court hearing? Swamy’s barb is that it was to intimidate judges! Chidambaram is a special target who earlier had the portfolio of finance minister. But what exactly was his corrupt involvement? He is his son’s father? Some file passed through his ministry years ago? This leaves more than a suspicion that the intent is not to reveal corruption but to throw mud. On the Nirav Modi incident, the case against Chidambaram seems weak and misplaced. TV anchors flaunt their pro-BJP prejudices in a tone that has made them judge and jury.

This trial by television is the worst tradition of investigative journalism. Our anchors cannot claim the skills of a David Frost who tore Savundranyagam apart to prompt Lord Denning to say: “Trial by television is not to be tolerated in a civilised country”. No less worthy was his tearing the veil from Richard Nixon. Indian anchors are not interested in the truth but only their own political biases. Anchors should pursue truth and not drama. Politicians join in. The evil of corruption gives way to corruption as a political tamasha of vilification. Today the BJP is in power and must answer.

Anna Hazare became a public hero precisely because the nation understands corruption is a prime concern. He virtually brought the Parliament to its knees when a “sense of the House” resolution was passed to meet his demands. In the Nehru era, then Indian high commissioner to Britain Krishna Menon did not resign over the jeep scandal. But former finance minister TT Krishnamachari had to resign over favours shown to industrialist Dalmia.

Likewise, Partap Singh Kairon was forced to resign as chief minister of Punjab by Nehru over corruption. But the most telling example is that of Lal Bahadur Shastri who resigned in 1956 because there was a railway accident on his watch though he was innocent.


Jaitley must resign

The very concept of accountability is for someone to accept responsibility. This Shastri did. The present crises is related to the finance ministry under Arun Jaitley. In the best traditions of parliamentary accountability, Jaitley should resign.

This is not an admission of guilt but accepting responsibility. In recent times, the honourable “Shastri” example is ignored. There is an election next year and Jaitley resigning would hurt the BJP electorally. The Prime Minister is a travelling salesman for India abroad and an orator for the BJP who is to blame.

Jaitley suggested that the solution lies in yet one more statute called the Fugitive Offenders Bill, 2018. This had been Jaitley’s dream since he tried to track Bofors money. This is not an anti-racketeering law similar to American legislation. First, what will trigger action under the Bill are three criteria: (i) an arrest warrant (ii) fleeing from the country, and (iii) the sum being Rs 100 crore or more.

Proposed Bill

At present, an attachment following investigation is available and has been done. Whether this will persuade Nirav Modi and Choksi to come back is not vouchsafed. So the real part of the Bill likely to hurt Modi and Choksi is the claim on foreign assets. On this, the Bill is indeterminate. Jaitley’s answer is that this will be achieved through international cooperation. This is too ambiguous to mean anything involving nations, banks, investment companies and others. Jaitley’s optimism is a farce.

Second, in this controversy, there has been an attempt not to blame the government but accountants — supposedly they did it. So, there is to be a regulatory National Financial Reporting Authority to take over disciplinary functions over all listed and unlisted companies who can take action including government referrals. This grand gesture is unnecessary. India has enough laws to deal with corruption. A small amendment on assets would have been enough. But the grandness is to show that the government is doing something while diverting the blame.

This is a faulty Bill. Will it be retrospective? Or is this a make-believe a solution to show the government is acting. The Select Committee to examine it threadbare. For the moment, what is needed is a thorough investigation (even if CBI has recently come into question) to prepare the ground of extradition. Don’t convert grave corruption into a tamasha. Corruption eats at the vitals even for the prized policy of attracting investment. Yet, corruption flowers.

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: Who is responsible for 'news ki maut'


Rajeev Dhavan Rajeev Dhavan

Supreme Court lawyer.

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