The Supreme Court of Pakistan not only heard the Panama Papers case in a fast-track trial that lasted just 15 months but also ensured that Nawaz Sharif does not stay in power. This apart, the Pak Apex Court constituted another Investigating Committee to go deep into the case, investigate and punish all those who are found guilty. This kind of fast-track trial, adjudication and speedy justice system should also come to India like in Pakistan. If not, like the mythological demon ‘Raktabeejasura,’ there will be many Lalu Prasad Yadavs and thousands of corruption cases.
Here, I remember the resignation of Paranjoy Guha Thakurta, the Editor of Mumbai-based Economic and Political Weekly (EPW), a publication that is known for its profound, research-based new-outlook articles. The reason for his resignation is that he took on the powerful billionaire businessman from Gujarat, Gautam Shantilal Adani. An article about Adani was to be published in the next issue of EPW and the Trustees (Sameeksha Trust) who managed EPW had asked the Editor to withhold the article as it would bring disrepute to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is very close to Adani.
What does this indicate? Narendra Modi, who came to power by saying that he would get back all the black money stashed away in foreign banks within 15 days of assuming office and who promised people that he would root out corruption in the country, is silent on the corruption cases I had mentioned earlier in the first part of this article yesterday. He should have taken steps to accelerate the court proceedings of all these cases. But we do not see any such steps being taken. Well, whatever happened to the much-touted Lokpal? Now, are we to conclude that the NDA government led by Modi is no different from the UPA government that was led by Sonia Gandhi when it comes to black money and corruption?
Back to Panama Papers. After the Panama Papers were leaked, it was found that over 42 nations and 600 individuals benefited from their ill-gotten money. The names of many rich, influential and powerful people have been mentioned in the Panama Papers, including the name of Russian President Vladimir Putin who has deposited money with the help of his friend.
When it comes to India, ‘The Indian Express’ says that the names of Bollywood actor Amitabh Bachchan and his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai figure in Panama Papers. However, ‘The Indian Express’ has a caveat — these names are rather cryptic with initials etc., making it impossible to legally fix the alleged culprits. The name of Adani also figures in Panama Papers.
More than 500 Indians have been named in Panama Papers. After the Panama Papers were leaked, the first thing that the Indian government did was to constitute a new Investigating Agency to probe the scandal. Members from Central Board of Direct Taxes, Financial Intelligence Wing, Foreign Tax and Tax Research Division and officials from the Reserve Bank of India are a part of the investigating team. Let us see when this Investigating Agency gives its report. There is no chance of the report coming out before 2019. Advantage? Your guess is as good as mine.
In the meanwhile, the Special Team constituted by the Supreme Court of India to unearth black money and to investigate such cases is continuing its probe. People who are in the know of things say that it is difficult to legally prove the corruption-related cases arising out of Panama Papers leak. The magnanimity shown by the Reserve Bank in sending money to foreign countries since 2004 may be one of the reasons why the cases cannot be proved in the court of law.
A financial expert says that the legal provisions relating to economic offences may transform itself by the time investigating agencies unearth corruption, tax evasion, and the loot of public money to the advantage of the culprits.
Now let us come back to former Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. The Supreme Court of Pakistan not only heard the Panama Papers case in a fast-track trial that lasted just 15 months but also ensured that Nawaz Sharif does not stay in power. This apart, the Supreme Court of Pakistan constituted another Investigating Committee and has asked it to go deep into the case, investigate, punish all those who are found guilty and submit a report.
This kind of fast-track trial, adjudication and speedy justice system should also come to India like in Pakistan. If not, like the mythological demon ‘Raktabeejasura,’ there will be many Lalu Prasad Yadavs (Lalu has 9 children and it is learnt that they are facing one or the other enquiries in corruption and other cases) and thousands of corruption cases.
It is, therefore, imperative for the BJP to prove that it is different from the Congress and fulfil its electoral promises. Otherwise, people will either reject BJP or give it a reduced majority in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. The huge margin that the BJP got in the 2014 general elections might be a mirage in the 2019 polls.
TAILPIECE: It is relevant here to recall the names of former Sikkim High Court Chief Justice P. D. Dinakaran and former Chief Justice of India K.G. Balakrishnan to understand the seriousness of the situation our Courts are in. If they were to be in a country like America with the charges they were facing, would it have been possible for them to manoeuvre to come “clean” is a million dollar question.
Irony of it all
Today’s newspapers carried a news item where the Supreme Court of India had last Monday castigated the Karnataka government for raising a bill of about Rs. 15 lakh for Police escort to be provided to Abdul Nazeer Maudany (an accused in the case of the 2008 serial blasts in Bengaluru where two people were killed and over 20 were injured) to enable this accused to visit his home in Kerala to attend his son’s marriage. On the basis of humanitarian consideration, he was allowed to attend various functions and to see his ailing mother in Kerala earlier also. The same human feeling was not seen in him when he allegedly indulged in the terrorist act. Here too, Maudany is facing a trial in the 2008 Bengaluru serial blast case which is still going on in the Year of Our Lord 2017 – for nearly 9 years.
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