Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Are the golden days of Indian bureaucracy now over?

A retired Indian Administrative Service officer was today sentenced to four years of imprisonment by the CBI court in Ghaziabad for wrongful allotment of a big tract of land to an industrialist and for entering into a criminal conspiracy with him when she was the chief executive officer and chairperson of the New Okhla Industrial Development Authority way back from 1994 to 1996. The Noida Entrepreneurs Association had filed the case against her in 1997 and much later, to ensure that the ends of justice be served, the Supreme Court transferred it to the CBI court. While in service this lady was known for her blatantly corrupt ways. In 1995, in a secret poll, her service mates in the state of Uttar Pradesh had adjudged her the second most corrupt IAS official in the entire state. But it is a sad commentary on the way this country is governed (?) that despite her obvious notoriety no action was taken against her, in fact a few years later she was made the chief secretary or head of the state’s bureaucracy. Fortunately the state did not have to suffer her for long, soon she was removed from the post of chief secretary on the orders of the Supreme Court. Now, about fifteen years after her venal acts in Noida she has been asked to pay the price.

Of course, she would appeal to the High Court against her conviction and, in the event of the conviction being upheld by that court, to the apex court, and all this while, it could be three to four years, she would be moving about freely on bail. Some people might find this state of affairs disappointing, if not outright disgusting, they would like criminals to land in jail the moment they are convicted but the due process of law can not be wished away. What is worth celebrating in this case is the fact that for the first time in independent India an IAS officer who retired from the rank of a secretary to the government of India has been punished for criminal malfeasance with a jail term. It is a black bordered day for the coveted service which so far had been beyond the reach of the law’s long arms. There are hundreds others in the four and a half thousand strong IAS cadre who should be behind the bars for their debased activities, if after the CBI court’s judgment they are feeling badly rattled and shaken, today could be a red letter day for the people of India and for their injured democracy.

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