The truth behind Karti Chidambaram's bravado

Accused of graft and corruption, Karti was captured smiling and pumping his fist in the air like a rock star or a political leader.

 |  4-minute read |   07-03-2018
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As I write this, the hearing on Karti Chidambaram’s bail plea has just resumed in the Patiala House courts. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), which had arrested Karti on February 28, was granted judicial custody for five days.

That period ends on March 6. The CBI, it is reported will ask for another eight days of custody to continue its investigation. During these last five days, the investigative agency brought Karti face to face with Indrani Mukherjea, former director of INX Media. Her recorded confession before a magistrate that she had paid the former Finance Minister’s son a bribe had caused his arrest.

Long years

Anticipating the possibility that the court may not extend his custody, the prosecution had reportedly planned to press the Enforcement Directorate (ED) into the attack, re-arresting Karti if required to interrogate him in the INX Media case for money laundering. Faced with the prospect of such an arrest, Karti had filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court challenging the jurisdiction of the ED in this matter.

This was a point of law on which the Supreme Court did not grant Karti anticipatory protection from arrest by ED, but also demanded why the latter had not yet filed its own FIR. The case pending before the courts, we might recall, is based on the CBI FIR lodged in May 2017 alleging irregularities in the Foreign Investment Promotion Board’s granting of clearance to INX Media during P Chidambaram's tenure as India’s Finance Minister.

If the CBI’s past record is anything to go by, the Indian public need not entertain high hopes of a successful prosecution of its case against Karti, let alone a swift and sure conviction. Let us not forget that in the high-profile 2G Scam case, all the eighteen accused including former minister A Raja and K Kanimozhi, DMK supremo M Karunanidhi’s daughter, were acquitted. Worse, the matter dragged on for nearly seven long years. Usually, in such matters, the accused, backed by a battery of the best lawyers that money can buy or political support can muster, manage to outsmart the investigative and prosecuting agencies.

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Press photo

The latter, we must not forget, are run and staffed by individual employees of the government who follow the orders of their current bosses and superiors. They have no personal passion or urgency to pursue the case to a successful termination. Moreover, the variety of individuals involved need not always work with the best possible coordination or cooperation. Convictions in criminal and economic offenses, additionally, require clinching if not conclusive material evidence, which is not always forthcoming.

Is that why Karti is seen smiling and striding confidently in press photos and video clips? In one widely-circulated shot, he is smiling and pumping his fist in the air like a rock star or leader with a mass following. Isn’t there something gross if not grotesque in such a gesture? Especially when the person in question is accused of graft and corruption? Does he regard himself as some sort of hero or icon? The fact is that most people in India are not well versed in the legal niceties or complexities of the case against him. Nor are they clear on whether he will be convicted, let alone punished.

Deep state

What, then, is the meaning if not the value of such a controversial arrest? For years there were whispers of India’s “deep state,” of the league of high and mighty who rule and control India, regardless of which party or person is in power. This cabal, it was thought, was “untouchable,” so rich, powerful, well-networked and connected were they, not only with bottomless pockets, but long tentacles, which extended deep into the police, judiciary, and every branch of the bureaucracy, not to mention rival political parties too.

With their informants, agents, and collaborators both in India and abroad, they were thought to be beyond the reach of the law. Is Karti’s seeming bluster a sign of his confidence in his professed innocence or of the knowledge of his exceptional immunity? We cannot be sure, but by going after the likes of the first family of the Congress in the National Herald case and now the Chidambarams, Modi sarkar has shown its resolve to destabilise if not destroy India’s so-called deep state.

No wonder Narendra Modi himself earned the sobriquet “disrupter-in-chief,” though speaking of at the India Today “Ideas Conclave” last March, he modestly said he was only “correcting past mistakes.”

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

Also read: How not to remember Sridevi

Writer

Makarand R Paranjape Makarand R Paranjape @makrandparanspe

The writer is director, Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla. The views are personal.

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