CRIME : A PRIVILEGE OF POLITICIANS?
he current political scene in the country is passing through a very strange phase. The moment government agencies — the State police, and the central agencies, like the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Enforcement Directorate (ED), Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB), and National Investigation Agency (NIA) come into action against a person belonging to a political party in the opposition suspected/alleged to have committed a crime, the parties instantly come out with the same old, oft-repeated, stale and stock phrases to declare the action as “politically motivated”, aimed at “character assassination”, ‘totally false’”, “unsubstantiated” and what not? Their speed of investigating and giving a ‘judicial’ verdict’ of ‘not guilty’ and ‘innocence’ is no less than the speed of sound and light. They display similar speed in declaring their opponent ‘guilty’ of the crimes they allege he has committed.
POLITICS, THEIR SAVIOUR
There are numerous instances of political leaders trooping out to defend the crime of a relative of their party leader. How can they say so, it remains a mystery? A political party has nothing to do with the business or other deals of the kins of their leaders and, therefore, no locus standi to say anything of what right or wrong the relation of their leaders do or not do. In other words, the business of the relations of the leaders of the party is not the business of the party and vice versa.
DO THEY SHARE BED?
A woman came out against a chief minister alleging that he had sexually assaulted her. She gave the date and the time this was done. She even gave the registration number of the vehicle in which the CM had brought her to his house. It was not the chief minister but his ministers who came with a statement declaring that the allegations are false and malicious. At this, a person quipped: How do they know that the allegations are false. Do they share the bed with him?
Similarly, if a successor government initiates an inquiry into the alleged ill-doings of a leader of the predecessor government or his real or political near and dear ones, it is generally dubbed a witch-hunt and political vendetta.
This situation boils down to the fact that politicians in power or in opposition and their relations and supporters for all intents and purposes, should be granted the privilege of immunity from the laws of the land and the Constitution, for all times to come.
From the reaction of the political leaders, it looks, they mean that the ruling party government should observe the touch-me-not policy against opposition even if there is a solid and incontrovertible proof against some of them or their nears and dear ones. That will render the long hands of law cut short when it comes to investigating cases of crimes by politicians or their friends and relations. It would, in effect, make our great politicians immune to the law of the land. In other words, it would indicate that the laws they make are for other people of the country and not for themselves and their relatives and supporters.
A controversy loudly blasted in police and political circles over the conduct of blue-eyed Mumbai Police officer Sachin Waze whom the present Maharashtra Vikas Aghadi (MVA) was very kind to bring him back after he had been dismissed about 17 years back. Everything was going smoothly till an unknown vehicle with explosives was found in February 2021 near the house of well-known industrialist Mukesh Ambani.
CHARGES ALWAYS ‘FALSE’
Later, Mumbai Commissioner of Police Paramvir Singh made very serious allegations of corruption against NCP leader and then Home Minister Anil Deshmukh. The opposition demanded Deshmukh’s resignation. As he belonged to the NCP, Shri Sharad Pawar was quick to act as the investigating officer, the prosecutor, and the judge to declare that the charges against the Home Minister Deshmukh were “false”. He reiterated that they will back the minister and not seek his resignation over the allegations.
But the good character certificate issued by Shri Pawar to his party nominee Home Minister Anil Deshmukh carried no conviction with the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to whom the investigation was later transferred by the Bombay High Court. Deshmukh had ultimately to resign. Now he is rubbing his heels in jail for the last so many months under the orders of the courts.
Another NCP leader and Minister in the MVA government, Shri Nawab Malik, had for the past many months been working as the government’s main spokesman hurling serious charges against persons who stood in opposition to MVA government. Now, Nawab Malik is behind bars facing numerous charges, including money laundering, under orders of the courts.
But the flashpoint came when on April 28, 2022 Shri Pawar called for the repeal of the sedition law, saying that Section 124(A) of the Indian Penal Code is “misused against people who criticise the government”.
Whether the sedition law should be altogether be abolished or not is a different matter. But what is more surprising and, to an extent, intriguing is, it looks, Shri Sharad Pawar’s left hand doesn’t know what his right hand is doing. Only a week back the Uddhav Thakre MVA government, of which Sharad Pawar is an important constituent, had slapped independent MP Mrs.Navneet Rana and her MLA husband MLA with sedition charges.
The Rana couple had threatened to recite Hanumaan Chaalisaa in front of Maharashtra CM’s r
esidence. To frustrate this, the Maharashtra government invoked a massive Police bandobast and their plan failed. Their plan remained a threat which failed as Maharashtra police did not allow them to move out of their residence. First, reciting Hanuman Chaalisa is not a ‘crime’ and the road connecting CM’s residence is a public place. Then how come it was presumed the ‘crime’ had been committed. Should the investigating agency and the court take cognizance of a ‘crime’ threatened, but not actually committed, or on presumption or assumption of its having been committed?
Those crying hoarse over IT/ CBI/NIA/NCB raids these days seem to have forgotten that it was during UPA rule that on the eve of BJP National President Shri Nitin Gadkari was to file his candidature for the second term, on January 23, 2013 IT raided Purti firms linked to him. UPA’s political purpose was achieved when he refused to file his nomination papers on moral grounds. Nothing happened afterwards.
SPECIAL DIET FOR SIDHU FOR OTHERS WHAT?
Article 14 of our Constitution provides: “The State shall not deny to any person equality before the law or the equal protection of the laws within the territory of India”. In other words, every citizen of the country is equal before the law. To treat all citizens equally is the basic concept of liberalism and Article 14 ensures the same for our citizens.
The former Panjab Congress President Navjot Sigh Sidhu has been sentenced by the Supreme Court to a rigorous punishment for one year. He has since been sent to jail.
According to media reports, Sidhu has been assigned clerical duty in Patiala Jail. This will earn him a wage of ₹90 per day.
As far as our understanding goes, all convicts in jail should be/are treated uniformly. The only difference is that as per their educational qualifications or special skills, the convicts are paid differently for the work assigned by jail authorities. The diet that has been prescribed by the doctors/dietician for Sidhu cannot be purchased with what he earns.
All culprits and jail inmates are treated equally. But are all convicts in jail being given the same treatment in the matter of food, as is being extended to Sidhu? It is doubtful.
In these circumstances, does it not mean that VIP culture has crept in in our jails has crept in?
By Amba Charan Vashishth
(The writer is a Delhi-based political analyst and commentator)