Voice from the Rooftop

Blog of Vincent Augustine D'Souza

Category: Corruption

Prashant Bhushan and Supreme Court

A bench of the Supreme Court comprising Justices Altamas Kabir, Cyriac Joseph and H. L. Dattu wants Prashant Bhushan to apologise to the court for saying in an interview to a magazine that half of the former CJIs were corrupt. Harish Salve had taken Prashant Bhushan to court saying he had cast aspersions on present CJI S. H. Kapadia also. That resulted in a contempt of court case. Supreme Court is not ready to accept truth as a justification for Prashant Bhushan’s statement and wants “one word of regret” from Prashant Bhushan. Prashant Bhushan is ready to utter “10 words of regret” to S. H. Kapadia. Altamas Kabir said it is not a matter of a person, but an institution.

An institution is made up of individuals. If individuals are corrupt they bring disrepute to the institution. Judges who were or are corrupt should be punished. It is a travesty of justice when corrupt judges go scot-free and people who speak the truth about corrupt judges are punished or asked to apologise. India’s national motto is Satyameva Jayate, truth always triumphs. Punishing people for speaking the truth is making a mockery of our national motto. The provision regarding contempt of court was meant to punish the people who defy court orders and not for punishing the people for speaking the truth, more so when they expose judicial corruption.

Prashant Bhushan should make public what he knows about corrupt CJIs. The law must be changed to hang corrupt CJIs. Prashant Bhushan has been in the forefront of fight against corruption and was in the committee to draft Lokpal Bill. He should not apologise. If he goes to jail it will show the abuse of the power of the court to punish the innocent. That may result in a law that will define contempt of court and take away the power of judges to act arbitrarily or scrapping the provision altogether. Many constitutions do not have the provision of contempt of court.

Udit Raj and Vineet Narain have mentioned some CJIs as corrupt. Why is Harish Salve silent about them? Vineet Narain is hostile to Shanti Bhushan and Prashant Bhushan.

Many times the Supreme Court has ordered CBI investigations in cases of corruption involving politicians and others. On some occasions the Supreme Court has set up Special Investigation Teams. In one case it appointed a prosecutor. Sometimes newspaper reports are treated as Public Interest Litigations. The Supreme Court should order an investigation in cases of corruption involving CJIs. If the charges are serious they should be behind bars like A. Raja, Suresh Kalmadi, Kanimozhi and so on. The judges should not have one standard for themselves and another standard for others. If the Supreme Court does not act, the government should act. If CJIs are in jail that will be a signal to judges that they are not above the law.

2G accused and bail

There is a campaign in the media that 2G accused should get bail. I see a lobbyist behind it.

Radia tapes revealed a lobbyist connected to politicians, bureaucrats, industrialists and journalists. In an Anil Ambani versus Mukesh Ambani case when the judgment went in favour of Anil Ambani she asked Vir Sanghvi to write an article attacking the judge. Barkha Dutt was ready to do her bidding.

The campaign began with Jaswant Singh appearing on CNN-IBN and saying the 2G accused should get bail. TV discussions followed. Ex-CJI Vishwanath Khare and Ex-SG Harish Salve sent unsolicited legal opinions to CBI. On 6/7/2011 the Supreme Court told CBI lawyer K. K. Venugopal “Don’t take these legal opinions into consideration. You reject them outright.”

The issue was discussed on the Big Fight on NDTV 24×7 on 9/7/2011. Jaswant Singh said the 2G accused should get bail and spoke of the tyranny of police officers who put people in jail without procedure. As expected DMK’s TKS Elangovan and Mukul Rohatgi, a lawyer for an accused, wanted the 2G accused to get bail. Tavleen Singh who has written against politicians for many years wanted bail for the 2G accused.

Jaswant Singh is a BJP member and spoke in his individual capacity. DMK is not an ally of BJP. Previously he did not talk about the tyranny people suffer.

Mukul Rohatgi talked about lynch mob and media hysteria. If people want the corrupt punished they do not become lynch mob. If media reports events, that is not hysteria. If people who thought themselves powerful enough not to be in jail could not get bail because of the gravity of the charges judges refused them bail they should not blame people and media. If the chargesheet is 80,000 pages long and the supplementary chargesheet is 25,000 pages long don’t blame CBI and prosecutor but blame the partners in crime. He asked what happens if someone is acquitted after some years in jail. Who will compensate for it? If someone is acquitted it does not mean he/she was not guilty. It may be the prosecution failed to prove the case or judge declared not guilty due to corruption or some other reason. In Priyadarshini Matto case in lower court the judge told the criminal I know you have committed the crime but I let you off.

Tavleen Singh talked of governance coming to a standstill because ministers and bureaucrats are afraid to take decisions due to 2G accused not getting bail. She said 70% prisoners are undertrials without bail and blamed judges for delay in judgments and said it would take 300 years to clear the backlog. It is not governance that has come to a standstill but corruption. If a minister is afraid to award a contract because asking for 15% commission may put him in jail so be it. Judges are to be blamed for condoning delaying in filing appeals and admitting appeals long after the appeal period has expired and granting adjournments that prolong the cases. However criminals who do not plead guilty and lawyers who defend criminals are also to be blamed for delay in judgments.

Tavleen Singh said the accused can influence witnesses from jail also. A. A. Khan countered it saying if the accused are in jail witnesses are not in awe of them. They think if the accused are in jail they are not powerful.

The demand for bail for 2G accused is not about justice and fair play. It is not about employees of telecom companies who are in jail. It is not even about A. Raja. It is about Kanimozhi. Since Kanimozhi could not get bail the campaign started. I suppose the lobbyist tried to influence judges but did not succeed. As in Ambani case the judges are targeted. Jaswant Singh and Tavleen Singh cannot convince people about bail for 2G accused. It made sense for the lobbyist to Jaswant Singh to speak about bail because any UPA MP speaking that would not have carried conviction and would have been brushed aside as defending a colleague. It is another matter that Jaswant Singh is also not effective. People found Tavleen Singh on government side when she participated in a debate on Lokpal Bill on Headlines Today. If Jaswant Singh and Tavleen Singh want to lose their credibility it is their choice.

BJP has demanded resignation of P. Chidambaram for his role in 2G scam and wants him in jail alongside A. Raja. There is a controversy about the shareholding pattern of loop as corporate affairs ministry claimed clerical error. Kapil Sibal is accused of reducing fine on Reliance from 650 crore rupees to five crore rupees.

JPC on 2G scam functions in secrecy. Its members publicly say they cannot give details of meetings or answer some questions but privately they leak information to TV channels and newspapers. JPC proceedings should be televised live. The country has a right to know what happens there.

Corruption at top and bottom

There are people who say Lokpal Bill targets corruption at top and does not make any difference to corruption at bottom. They do not know corruption at bottom is very often due to corruption at top.

A home minister takes four crore rupees as bribe to appoint a police officer as commissioner. The commissioner recovers that money from his juniors who in turn recover money from their juniors and so it reaches the level of constable. This also results in criminals going scot-free due to acts of commission and omission by police.

A chairman of a Public Service Commission takes 75 lakh rupees as bribe to appoint DSPs and judges. They recover it from their juniors and others.

If getting a driving licence, passport and income tax refund is difficult without paying bribe, people at the top are responsible for it. Transport minister is responsible for RTOs. People should question him about corruption in RTOs. Transport minister can act against corrupt employees.

If someone says he does not want zero corruption he is either corrupt or a beneficiary of corruption.

Some say PM should not be under Lokpal and he can be investigated after he demits office. That is closing the stable doors after the horses have fled. What if he does not demit office and gets re-elected or manages to retain office through foul means till his death? It seems Congress wants Manmohan Singh to quit as PM and Rahul Gandhi to take over. Manmohan Singh has not obliged.

Many have spoken about how Hong Kong was once corrupt and one day people came out on the streets and said we will not tolerate corruption. All corrupt persons lost their jobs. India can have such a day when Indians will come out in every city and village and say we will not tolerate corruption and demand dismissal of all corrupt people.

Death penalty for corruption has reduced corruption in China to a great extent and has made it a great power.

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