The latest issue of India Today (January 3, 2010) carries an interesting cartoon by Ravi Shankar with an amount boldly inscribed at the top : Rs.176, followed by eleven zeroes. The main cartoon shows Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sonia Gandhi declaring “We have ZERO tolerance for corruption!” and some minions of theirs declaring “We can tolerate many more zeros….”
If for several months now the only word heard and reverberating in every nook and corner of the country is CORRUPTION, the credit for this goes to three constitutional authorities, the Supreme Court, the Parliament and the Comptroller and Auditor General.
On October 29, a Supreme Court Bench comprising of Justice G.S. Singhvi and Justice A.K. Ganguly hearing a writ petition filed by the “Centre for PIL” seeking action on the basis of the draft report submitted by the CAG, pulled up the Central Government for the slow progress of investigation made in the 2G Spectrum scam which according to the CAG draft report had caused a loss of approximately 1 lakh 40 thousand crores to the public exchequer. The Additional Solicitor General told the Court that day it was only a draft report.
The final report placed in Parliament in November assessed the loss as of 1 lakh 76 thousand crores, which is the amount boldly displayed in the India Today cartoon referred to.
On November 18, the Supreme Court went still further when pronouncing on a petition filed by Subramaniam Swamy that he had written to the Prime Minister in November 2008 seeking permission that Telecom Minister A. Raja be prosecuted, but that his plea was not accepted on the ground that the CBI was investigating the matter. The Chief Justice then asked the P.M. to file an affidavit in that regard in Court.
The C.A.G. reported on the scam, the Supreme Court took serious note of this scam as well as the corruption in the Commonwealth Games and on the first day in the Winter Session of Parliament these two scams as well as Adarsh Housing scam relating to Defence land were sought to be raised by several opposition p;arties. But Sushma Swaraj, Leader of Opposition was shouted down by the Congress Party.
After that the entire opposition and some even among the Government allies came round to the conclusion that parliament could settle down to normal business only if government agrees to set up a Joint Parliamentary Committee in respect of these three scams.
Towards the end of the Winter Session a senior minister in the U.P.A Government, not belonging to the Congress Party, told me that both the P.M. and the F.M. had told him that they were ready to have a J.P.C. A ministerial meeting to announce this was actually convened, but called off at the last moment.
The J.P.C. has not been set up; but A. Raja has been removed, the Maharashtra C.M. changed, and Suresh Kalmadi and his colleagues subjected to CBI raids. The loot has not been recovered yet, but if some action has started, the principal determinant has been the Supreme Court.
I hope in a matter linked up with this problem of corruption the Supreme Court will once again play a decisive role. Pending before the Supreme Court is a writ petition filed by senior Advocate Ram Jethmalani and five other eminent citizens including Subhash Kashyap and K.P.S. Gill. The petition aims at forcing government to bring back India’s wealth stashed away in tax havens overseas.
When the BJP had made this one of its poll planks in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections and set up a Task Force to study this issue, one of the members of our task force was R. Vaidyanathan, Professor of Finance and Control, Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore. Appended to the writ petition referred to above is an excellent article by Prof. Vaidyanathan which opens with the affirmation
“Barack Obama is concerned about these; Merkel is furious about them; and Sarkozy wants to regulate them. But the leaders of one of the most affected countries, India, are not saying or doing anything about them. They are ‘tax havens’ or offshore financial centers where the ill-gotten wealth of tax evaders of many countries is hoarded. These tax havens are now in the news since developed economies like the US, Germany and France etc. want them to return the ill-gotten wealth stashed away by their citizens.”
The article concludes with the following paragraph:
“Let us remember that the past history suggest that our elite failed India and helped in the plunder and devastation of this country. The silence of our elite in politics/media/business/bureaucracy and arts speaks volumes about our collective guilt. ‘No criminals in politics’ is a good campaign, but can we afford leaders who stash funds abroad? Black money stashed abroad is the Gangotri of all crimes. It shows our distrust for our motherland and contempt for dharma. Let us deal with it first”.
In my blog dated November 28, 2010 I had referred to the numerous scams that had surfaced in the year 2010 and made it really a year of stinking scams. I had also pointed out that in 2004, the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime had adopted a comprehensive Convention against corruption. India signed the Convention. Art. 67 requires all signatories to have the Convention ratified by their countries. In many countries, ratification of such an international document which a country signs means formal approval by its Parliament. Here in India all that is needed is approval by the Union Cabinet. Fourteen out of the 140 signatories have failed to ratify it even after the passage of six years since its adoption. All Indians would feel sorry to learn that India is one of these fourteen. Will the Prime Minister kindly enlighten the country why India has failed to ratify it. One single meeting of the Cabinet in the last six years would have been sufficient for that.
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Tail Piece :
Writes M.J. Akbar :
“Even the most extravagant astrologer could never have predicted that Dr. Manmohan Singh would be fatally wounded by a mobile phone. He has withstood, with great calm and fortitude, six years of Opposition artillery without a scratch on his reputation. Suddenly, he has become victim of friendly fire. A remarkable aspect of a scandal that has weakened the Government to the point of fragility is that conversations which revealed part of the truth were between politicians, lobbyists, businessmen and journalists on the same side. This is collusive detail, not accusatory condemnation, from lobbyists and journalists who were friends of those in power.
27th December, 2010