Sunday, December 19, 2010

Need for fast track courts for trying corruption cases

In India we have many examples of politicians against whom law courts have preferred serious charges of corruption, including having assets much beyond their known sources of income, continuing to hold important executive positions like chief minister of a state or a minister at the Centre. Lalu Prasad Yadav, who had earlier been jailed in the infamous animal fodder case and was let out on a bail, completed full five years as the Union rail minister in the first United Progressive Alliance government led by Manmohan Singh from 2004 to 2009. All this while the case of embezzlement of Rs.1,000 crore was still there against him but it was kept in suspended animation at the behest of the Central government, what with the Central Bureau of Investigation, nothing more than a hand maiden of the central government, taking all the time in the world to collect the necessary evidences against Yadav. Similar has been the good fortune of Mayawati, chief minister of Uttar Pradesh since May 2007. A case of having assets disproportionate to income was filed against her a couple of years ago but the CBI has been blowing hot and cold in the matter of registering charges. On the 19th April 2010, the CBI told the Supreme Court, which is monitoring the case, that it had incontrovertible evidence against her and was in apposition to file a charge sheet any day but just a few days later, when Manmohan Singh’s government needed Mayawati’s support to survive a cut motion moved in the Lok Sabha by the Opposition, it somersaulted to its own disgrace and submitted to the court that since Mayawati was found not guilty by the Income Tax Tribunal, the CBI too might not prefer any charges of disproportionate assets. But that does not mean that the case has been withdrawn, only that it is not being actively pursued.

There is a need to put an end to this farce once and for all by having fast track courts to try all cases of corruption against politicians and senior government officials, say, equivalent to deputy secretary in the government of India or above. Once a corruption case is filed against such a person, the investigating agency should be given a maximum period of three months to file a charge sheet, followed by maximum nine months for the case to be tried and decided by a fast track Sessions court. The appeal, if any from either side, should be decided on by the High Court in not more than four months, and in the rare case the case is taken to the Supreme Court, the apex court should dispose it of in maximum two months. Thus, in not more than eighteen months from the day a corruption is instituted against a politician or a senior bureaucrat, either the person would be behind the bars cooling his heels or would be honourably discharged. The government will have to provide two to three hundred special fast track courts for this and budget to incur a total annual expenditure of one to two thousand crore rupees on them, but the courts shall pay many times the amount spent by way of increased public confidence and trust in the system of governance of this country.

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