New Delhi, April 8 (IANS) The Supreme Court on Thursday declined to entertain petitions by the Maharashtra government and former state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh, challenging the Bombay High Court order directing a preliminary enquiry by the CBI into corruption allegations levelled by former Mumbai Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh.
A bench comprising Justices Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Hemant Gupta said: "We are of the view that the nature of allegations, the personas involved and the seriousness of the allegations do require an independent agency to enquire into the matter. It is a matter of public confidence given the factual scenario."
The bench noted that the High Court has only ordered a preliminary enquiry, albeit by an independent agency, and again stressed that matter is serious.
Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, representing the Maharashtra government, argued that the High Court passed the order without examining maintainability of petitions. The High Court adopted a very unusual procedure while ordering a CBI probe against the then Home Minister based on Singh's allegations, he added.
Singh had accused Deshmukh of setting a collection target of Rs 100 crore from bars and restaurants. The top court observed that two persons closely working together fell apart, the allegations should be verified. "Allegations are serious, curious, the persons involved are: the Commissioner of Police and the former Home Minister," it said.
The top court was convinced with the Bombay High Court order and without hearing the arguments of opposite parties, dismissed the petitions filed by Maharashtra government and Deshmukh. The top court also declined to accept the contentions made by Singhvi, that merely because the Home Minister has resigned after the High Court order would be a factor not to direct enquiry by an independent agency.
"He (Deshmukh) did not resign when the state set up a Commission of Enquiry. He quit after High Court order. He was clinging to office," it observed.
During the hearing, the bench also remarked that former Mumbai Police Commissioner, who made the allegations against him, was not Deshmukh's enemy but instead, "was almost his right-hand man". The bench stressed that the matter is not a case of political or business rivalry, instead it is a matter where a senior minister and senior police officer are involved.
Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, representing Deshmukh, submitted that allegations against his client were only hearsay and have no evidentiary value, and cannot become ground for a CBI probe into the matter. As he insisted that his client should have been heard before the High Court passed the order for CBI enquiry, the bench noted that CBI investigation into the matter is not an attack on the federal structure.
The court also rejected Deshmukh's contention for a probe by either High Court or the top court, saying one cannot pick and choose the investigating agency.
"Further, we are unable to accept the contention of Kapil Sibal, learned senior counsel that even for directing a preliminary enquiry, the petitioner Anil Deshmukh is mandatorily entitled to be heard in his individual capacity even though the State Government was represented and he was a Minister at that time," it said.
After a detailed hearing in the matter, the top court declined to interfere with the High Court order and dismissed the petitions.
A division bench of the Bombay High Court comprising Chief Justice Dipankar Datta and Justice G.S. Kulkarni on Monday had asked the CBI to complete its "preliminary probe" within 15 days on the issues raised by Singh in his "letter-bomb" last month. Hours after the verdict, Deshmukh quit his post.
Besides Singh's PIL, the court heard three other pleas - one filed by Ghanshyam Upadhyay seeking a court-monitored SIT, another by Mohan Bhide wanting a retired HC or SC judge to probe the matter, and a third by Jayshri Patil for a probe by the CBI, or any other independent agency.
Mumbai, April 8: The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) on Thursday questioned arrested Mumbai Police officer Sachin Vaze, former city Police Commissioner Param Bir Singh and two others in connection with the preliminary enquiry it registered for the probe into allegations of corruption against former state Home Minister Anil Deshmukh.
A CBI source related to probe told IANS: "The agency sleuths have recorded the statement of Vaze, who is presently in NIA custody." The source said that the CBI is also recording the statement of Singh, who dropped a letter bomb on March 20, accusing Deshmukh of asking Vaze and other Mumbai Police personnel to extort Rs 100 crore 'monthly' from bars, hotels and restaurants.
Mumbai/New Delhi, March 23 (IANS) Prime accused of the SUV case, arrested cop Sachin Vaze operated his extortion racket from a sea facing luxury hotel, located at Marine Drive in South Mumbai.
CCTV footage of a Land Cruiser, used by Vaze reveals that Mumbai's disgraced police officer was using the hotel during the third week of February, before executing the plot to park an explosive-laden SUV near Mukesh Ambani's house, sources in NIA said. Vaze's close aide Vinayak Shinde, a former cop allegedly involved in murder of Mansukh Hiran, owner of the SUV, was also spotted in the hotel.
The hotel was located 10 minutes drive from Vaze's Crime Branch office. Reacting on Vaze's underworld dealings, BJP spokesperson Ram Kadam said that this huge extortion racket being operated by the Crime Branch officer from a well known hotel was patronised by the top functionaries of the government.
"From the cricket betting syndicates to collection of 'hafta' from bars and restaurants, Vaze operated as a boss of organised criminal gang. My information is that in the name of Covid-19 measures, when the government ordered the bars to shut at 11 pm, the motive was to strike a deal with the select bar operators. Those who paid hafta, were allowed to open their bars beyond midnight," BJP legislator Ram Kadam told IANS.
A prominent cricket bookie of Mumbai, Naresh Dhare, booked in Hiran's murder was reportedly collecting funds for Vaze from various betting syndicates active in Maharashtra.
"Expensive suites booked by Vaze in such luxury hotels were meant to negotiate deals and organise secret meetings with betting rings and bar operators. Vaze, who led the Crime Intelligence Unit (CIU) of Mumbai police sheltered such crime syndicates instead of acting against them," Kadam revealed.
A former Inspector of Crime Branch, Mumbai under whom Vaze had worked said that the disgraced cop had investigated several cases of betting and hawala racket under him. "Of late I came to know that Vaze developed his links with the kingpins of betting syndicates operating from the United Arab Emirates and other middle-east countries. He was hand in glove with them (syndicates)," the inspector said.
NIA officials are meanwhile gathering information on Vaze's other aides who helped him in procuring gelatin sticks, other gadgets, including sim cards, and helped in organising funds.
Sources said that Vaze was paying a handsome amount to Shinde, his former subordinate who was sentenced for life imprisonment in an police encounter case. After Shinde came out of jail on parole, Vaze was reportedly using him in collecting extortion related funds. Some other tainted cops, placed under suspension, were in touch with Vaze.
The NIA would be interrogating Vaze till March 25, when his police remand expires. Sources said that NIA might request the court to further extend remand of Vaze, as he is also named in the murder of Mansukh Hiran.
"The cold blooded murder of Mansukh really nails Vaze. Had he not gone to the extent of eliminating his former aide (Mansukh), he could have gotten rid of the SUV case which was a plot aimed at just scaring a business house. However in a bid to conceal his identity in the SUV case, Vaze got his aide killed and in a way he committed the biggest blunder of life," said a former police pnspector under whom Vaze developed skills of electronic surveillance and busted many organised crime gangs.
New Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) The Uttar Pradesh and the Punjab governments have locked horns over whether a state government can file a petition under the Constitution's Article 32 to claim fundamental rights.
The UP government had moved the Supreme Court under this constitutional provision seeking direction to the Punjab government and Rupnagar (Punjab) jail authority to immediately hand over gangster-turned-politician Mukhtar Ansari's custody to Banda (UP) district jail. Ansari is lodged in the Rupnagar jail since January 2019.
Citing the top court verdict in Union of India vs V. Sriharan, the UP government contended that the court entertained the petition filed by the Centre as there existed dispute between it and a state bearing directly on fundamental rights.
"It is submitted that there exists no explicit or implicit bar for filing a Petition under Article 32 by the state as long as there exists a requirement of order/direction to be passed by the Hon'ble Court to ensure the protection of fundamental rights enshrined under Part III of the Constitution", said the UP government in written submissions filed through advocate Garima Prasad.
Article 32 deals with 'Right to Constitutional Remedies', and gives the right to move the apex court for the enforcement of the rights conferred in the Constitution.
In Ansari's custody, the UP government said that in the present case, the dispute is between two states affecting the fundamental right to speedy trial which is implicit in Article 14, 19(1) (a) and 21 of the Constitution. "It is submitted that there is no restriction specified as to who per se can file a petition for the enforcement of fundamental rights of the citizens under Article 32, thus, anyone including the state, can also approach this Hon'ble Court seeking reliefs pertaining to the enforcement and protection of the Fundamental Rights," it added.
The Punjab government has contested these claims, saying that only a citizen can move the top court under Article 32 to claim fundamental rights and a state cannot invoke this provision. "State by itself has not been given any right to move this court under Article 32 under any circumstances.. therefore, the state of UP is not competent to file the present writ petition as it is neither citizen to whom the right is conferred and neither it has any fundamental rights which are exclusively conferred upon citizens," it said, seeking dismissal of UP's plea.
Earlier in the day, the Uttar Pradesh government told the Supreme Court that the Punjab government is "shamelessly" protecting Ansari as he is not being handed back to UP where he faces trial for several heinous offences before a special MP/MLA court.
The UP government added that more than 30 FIRs and more than 14 criminal trials including heinous crimes of murder and under Gangster Act are pending against Ansari in various MP/MLA courts, where his personal appearance is sought.
New Delhi, Jan 18 (IANS) The Economic Offences Wing (EOW) of Delhi Police said on Monday that it has arrested former CEO of National Spot Exchange Ltd (NSEL) Anjani Sinha for fictitious trading on the exchange and for creating false stocks.
The EOW, which had registered a case in 2015 on a broker's complaint against Sinha and others, arrested the ex-CEO of NSEL in Mumbai on Sunday night after conducting raids at various hideouts.
In a statement, the EOW said the accused was produced in a Borivali court and has been granted transit remand. He is being brought to New Delhi for production in the jurisdictional Court, it added.
In 2013, NSEL had defaulted on payments worth of Rs 5,600 crore in which about 22 borrowers had received money which they did not return to the investors.
"The NSEL crisis was an engineered crisis. Though it was solvable, it was not solved with a view to throwing 63 Moons Technologies out of the exchange business. All the probe agencies like the ED, the CBI, the EOW-Mumbai, and SFIO have traced the entire money trail of Rs 5,600 crore to the 22 defaulting entities and their investigations established that not a single paisa has come to NSEL, 63 Moons or its founder," said a spokesperson of the NSEL.
"Even the Bombay High Court has observed that the entire money trail is with the 22 defaulting entities. Despite this, all targeted actions have been concentrated against NSEL, 63 Moons and its founder, who are actually the biggest sufferers and victims. Such victimisation and motivated action notwithstanding, they have been trying to earnestly resolve the crisis," the NSEL spokesperson added.
The crisis-hit NSEL has also urged market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to resolve the Rs 5,600 crore payment crisis in the larger interest of the investors.
New Delhi, Jan 16 (IANS) The Chandigarh-bench of National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) has admitted a petition filed against Omaxe Ltd over alleged acts of oppression and mismanagement claiming by the company and its management.
The petition filed by Sunil Goel, the former Joint Managing Director of the company levels allegations against Rohtas Goel, the Chairman and Managing Director of Omaxe for indulging in financial fraud, siphoning of funds, insider trading and inflation of turnover of the company.
The petition said that, in June 2017 Omaxe took a loan of Rs 250 crore from Indiabulls Housing Finance Limited as per the minutes of the Executive Committee's meeting. It said that though Sunil Goel was a part of the Executive Committee, he did not receive any notice of the meeting wherein resolution for borrowing of loan of Rs 250 crores was approved.
"It is also stated that Sunil Goel has been repeatedly appointed as Joint Managing Director of Omaxe Limited till 27.09.2017 on which date he was illegally ousted in the 28th Annual General Meeting of the company where several resolutions, declaring dividend only to non-promoter shareholders and appointment of Seema Prasad as Director of Omaxe Limited, were passed," it said.
The respondents, including Rohtas Goel illegally restrained the petitioners from participating in the Annual General Meeting by using force and threats, claimed Sunil Goel in his petition.
Further, as per the plea, Rohtas was also involved in exclusion of the petitioners from the affairs of the company to "gain control over the company and all its subsidiaries in order to financially disable the petitioners".
Rohtas allegedly conducted the affairs of the company in an oppressive manner towards the petitioners and also towards the interest of the company.
"It is stated that owing to such financial mismanagement and fraudulent transactions the financial debts have increased and profits have dipped down. Various letters have been issued on behalf of the petitioners, objecting to the illegal and oppressive acts of respondents, but in vain," said the petition.
Founded in 1989, the company has its presence in eight states across 27 cities. Rohtas Goel is the Chairman and Managing Director of Omaxe Limited and represents the largest promoter shareholder group of the company. Sunil Goel, younger brother of Rohtas Goel represents the second largest promoter shareholder group having 22 per cent shareholding in the company.
Primarily, the shareholding of the promoter and promoter group is through Guild Builders Private Limited, which holds around 68.45 per cent shares of Omaxe Limited and is a holding company of Omaxe Limited.
In 2017, differences arose between the brothers with regard to functioning of the company, following which Sunil Goel was removed from the company in September 2017, which he claims as an illegal removal.
New Delhi, Dec 26 (IANS) The Indian government is planning to revamp its federal drug law enforcement and intelligence agency - Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) -- with creation of 3,689 new posts, canine squads, cyber and intelligence units and creation of a dedicated prosecution wing for the organisation.
The proposal aims at redesigning the governance architecture of NCB, its capacity of investigation and intelligence and making it more professional and effective. The bureau comes under Ministry of Home Affairs and is currently headed by 1984-batch IPS officer Rakesh Asthana.
The government has planned to create 3,689 posts in various grades up to level-15, thereby raising the strength of NCB from existing 1,107 to 4,751. There is also plan to create four new regional offices, thus raising the number of regional offices from existing three to seven. Creation of 17 new zonal offices and upgrading all existing 12 sub-zonal offices into zonal offices thereby raising the number of field offices to 42, including 13 existing regional offices, has also been planned.
There are plans to set up a dedicated prosecution wing to provide for in-house expertise for legal advice and taking up all cases filed under Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances Act, a Canine Wing to identify drugs and Drug Intelligence Unit. Setting up of a Cyber Technical Cell is also planned to tackle the challenges arising out of modern technological methods used by drug traffickers. The decision to revamp was taken after government found that the drug traffickers are increasingly using the Dark Net for trafficking and crypto-currencies for payment.
This was disclosed in a report of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Home Affairs headed by Congress Deputy Leader in Rajya Sabha, Anand Sharma, on the Demands for Grants of Ministry of Home Affairs placed in Parliament on December 21.The report stated: "The drug traffickers are increasingly using the Dark Net for trafficking in drugs. The medium offers complete anonymity because of the use of onion routing, use of Crypto Currency for payment and Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) encryption."
The committee stressed upon that NCB's expertise and capacity to deal with this "need to be augmented". "Nonetheless, with available resources the NCB arrested a Dark Net vendor who was operating as an active vendor of Psychotropic Drugs in Dark Net markets. This network had international linkages spread across India, Singapore and USA. During the operation, approximately 135 kgs of different psychotropic tablets were seized and four persons were arrested," the report stated.
Keeping in view the constant changing pattern of drug trafficking and its abuse and the need to develop skills of officers to respond to the challenges arising out of the same, the Ministry of Home Affairs has, in December, 2019 set up a Training Centre on drug law enforcement within the campus of the Central Academy of Police Training, Bhopal. This institute is mandated to impart domain training to the officers of NCB and those of other Central and State Agencies involved in drug law enforcement.
For the purpose of Coordination among all states and central agencies in drug-related issues, a Narco Coordination mechanism was set up by MHA in 2016. This mechanism provides a common platform for all drug-related issues in India. Further for cooperation and information-sharing at international level, the NCB has entered into agreements with 42 countries. In addition, the NCB liaises with the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) and UNODC regulary.
New Delhi, Dec 12 (IANS) The accused named in the 2013 railway bribery for post scam was layering funds through multiple companies and persons to show them as normal business transactions, the Enforcement Directorate (ED) has found in its investigation. IANS has viewed the chargesheet filed by the ED in the 2013 bribe for posting case.
The ED said, "The statements of the witnesses recorded clearly established the intents of the accused persons and their involvement in the schedule offences and generation of proceeds of crime by way of layering and integration of funds through a number of entities and persons."
The ED had filed a chargesheet in the railway bribery case in October this year against IRSSE officer Mahesh Kumar, senior Congress leader and former Railway Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal's nephew Vijay Singla, N. Manjunath, Sandeep Goyal, Ajay Garg, Sandhir, Sushil Daga, C.V. Venugopal, M.V. Murali Krishna and Venketeshwara Rail Nirman Pvt Ltd under sections of the Prevention of Money Laundering Act (PMLA).
The ED has also demanded punishment for those named in the chargesheet and confiscation of their assets. The ED case is based on the FIR and chargesheet filed by the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) against Mahesh Kumar, Singla, Goyal and seven other accused persons.
The ED said that Mahesh Kumar and Goyal in their statements have stated that the purpose of their meeting at Hotel Taj in Mumbai and Hotel Lalit in Delhi was to discuss a marriage proposal.
"However, as per the CBI chargesheet, the outcome of the meeting at Hotel Taj was shared by Goyal with Garg. And Garg in his statement to the ED stated that Goyal had informed him that Mahesh Kumar was trying to become Member (Electrical) in railway board and Goyal was in touch with Manjunath who wanted to get Mahesh Kumar posted as Member (Electrical)," the ED claimed.
"There remains no doubt that that the meetings at Hotel Taj and Hotel Lalit were not only to discuss a marriage proposal, but also for planning of appointment of Mahesh Kumar as Member (Electrical) and the bribes amount to be paid," the ED claimed.
It further said that Manjunath, Venugopal and Krishna in their statements have claimed that their contribution amounts were business transactions. "However, the persons through which the funds were routed and arranged at Delhi in cash have confirmed in their statements that these payments were arranged on the request of the accused persons. However, these payments were adjusted by them in their books of accounts," it alleged.
The ED further alleged that the bankig transactions made by the accused persons were made to mobilise the funds through "layering" by using a number of accounts of entities and persons and finally integrated the funds in the form of "cash" at Delhi.
"Statements of witnesses clearly establishes the modus-operandi of the accused and purpose of transactions through a number of entities. Later on, the funds layered were shown by these persons as business transactions but the same were proceeds of crime," it added.
The ED also said that the money was layered in as many as nine companies before being handed to the people who then took it to Chandigarh. The statements were recorded by the ED in 2017 and 2019.
The CBI had caught Singla red-handed while accepting a bribe of Rs 89.68 lakh for the favourable posting of Mahesh Kumar. The ED in July this year had questioned Bansal for several hours in Chandigarh in connection with the case. Bansal had to step down from the post amid the accusations.
In May last year, the ED had attached the Rs 89 lakh amount which the CBI seized from the office of Bansal's nephew Singla in 2013 in the corruption case related to appointments at top positions in the railways, when the Congress leader was the Union Railway Minister in the United Progressive Alliance-2 regime.
Singla demanded Rs 10 crore through Sandeep Goyal from N. Manjunath to get Mahesh Kumar posted as Member (Electrical), the ED had said, quoting the CBI probe.
(Anand Singh can be contacted at Anand.email@example.com)
There’s no doubt that the UPA left poison pills behind; the Government must get tough. The Indian banking sector is in crisis and someone needs to call out the culprit, the UPA Government, which allowed ridiculous loans to be approved. If facts are investigated, it will emerge that several gold-plated loans were given to favoured businessmen. It is, therefore, not surprising that journalists, friendly to the previous regime, are flying kites and are trying to discredit legitimate business loans given to people close to the current administration. When Congress leaders attack the Modi Government for allowing defaulters such as Vijay Mallya to ‘escape’, one cannot but be astounded at the hypocrisy of such spokespersons. It was the UPA that gave massive loans which did not have a semblance of logic. Anybody with a modicum of intelligence could see that Mallya’s airline was in a tailspin and was going to be crushed under the one-time liquor baron’s immense ego. And it is not just Mallya to whom loans that defied logic were given, infrastructure projects from roads to airports were ‘gold-plated’, the cost of building a kilometre of four-lane highway inexplicably jumped four-times in that decade as mafia builders ripped off the banks with Government’s tacit support.
As much as one would say that Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley have been hobbled by the ineptitude and down-right thuggery of the previous administration, the fact is that they are the ones in power today. Blaming the previous Government is not an excuse that can be taken to voters after completing three-quarters of one’s term in power. There’s no doubt that the global financial crisis, coupled with stricter rules, implemented by both former and present Reserve Bank of India Governors, Raghuram Rajan and Urjit Patel respectively, have made most Indian banks reluctant to give loans to small and medium industries. These projects are essential to get job growth going and, thus, encourage a consumption economy. India’s economic growth has been constrained over the previous few quarters because of this fact. While a 6.5 per cent growth rate is nothing to be ashamed of, it is certainly not enough to keep pace with India’s ‘demographic dividend’ which runs the risk of becoming a ‘demographic burden’. Jaitley rightly noted that large industrial enterprises do find it easier to raise funds from bond markets and from foreign banks due to their credit ratings, something that self-appointed social media economists fail to understand.
With gross non-performing assets growing from Rs 5.02 lakh crore to Rs 6.41 lakh crore between March 2016 and March 2017, the situation is critical. The new insolvency law brought in by the Government, despite some flaws, is a beginning in the process to recapitalisation. Crony capitalists encouraged by corrupt politicians of the previous regime should see their projects taken away and their assets built up by siphoning funds from their companies, should be auctioned off. Yes, the banks and the Government will need to take a haircut, a massive one at that, but that’s the only way forward. The Government must think before it recapitalises the banking system. Bankers should realise that things are not as bad as they were in the aftermath of the most corrupt administration India has ever seen.
The drop in the NPA to capital ratios in 2016 looks hopeful but this is partly due to the additional capital received by many public sector banks as part of the government’s Indradhanush programme. Also, in light of the revised disclosures of NPA levels by some large private sector banks in the last few weeks, the 2016 ratios are likely to be much worse.
We also compare the growth rates of NPAs, capital and loans across the two crisis episodes. The average annual growth rates of GNPA and NNPA over the five-year period from 1997-2001 were 8.5% and 9.8%, respectively. During this period, bank capital grew 13.14% and bank loans grew 15.87%. The corresponding numbers for the current crisis are much worse. The average GNPA and NNPA growth rates for the period 2011-2015 were 45.9% and 54.9%, respectively. The average growth rate of bank capital for this period was 16.1%. Bank loans grew at 16.2%.
This shows that during the last NPA crisis, bank capital grew at a higher rate than NPAs. While the NPA to loans ratio was higher then, banks were not undercapitalized. They had better ability to withstand the problem. In the current crisis, however, the growth rate of NPAs has been considerably higher than that of bank capital, further underscoring the severity of the crisis. The growth rates of bank loans on the other hand have been similar across both crisis episodes.
The emphasis on the alternative measure of the NPA problem also highlights the importance of capital in resolving the crisis. If the NPA to capital ratio is to be restored to a level that was prevalent during the high growth years of 2003-2007, the capital base has to roughly quadruple. Even if we assume that roughly 50% of the net NPAs will be recovered by the banking sector, the capital base has to double. This is unlikely to happen through retained profits or sale of real estate or other similar strategies.
An attempt to revive the banking sector must include a credible commitment of capital for it to be meaningful. In absence of capital and accompanying structural reforms, any solution will be incomplete and the banking sector may remain in the quagmire for a long time to come.
Impact of NPA on Economy
The problem of NPAs in the Indian banking system is one of the foremost and the most formidable problems that had impact the entire banking system. Higher NPA leds to following adverse impact on Economy:
Steps taken by RBI and Government in last few years to curb NPA
It is a matter of grave concern that due to the NPA problem, the entire economic activity of the country has come to a gridding halt. Modi government is doing its best to resolve the issue with carrot and stick policy though the sentiments are extremely damp. It will take some time to restore the confidence of the people in the banking system and the banker must own responsibility of serving the country honestly, then the problem is likely to be resolved. The Covid 19 will escalate the NPA crisis to the next level so the banks and enforcement agencies of the government must plan effective realization of the bad and stolen assets within stipulated time before the banks takes irreversible hit.
Writer is Associate Editor & banking and finance expert.
While the extradition of Nirav Modi will take time, real justice is possible only when his protectors and bankers are brought to book
With just a couple of weeks to go before the general election, the arrest of fugitive diamond merchant Nirav Modi, the key accused in the Rs 13,500 crore Punjab National Bank scam, in London seems convenient for the ruling BJP and has given an edge to its “MainBhiChowkidar” campaign. It is a different matter though that had it taken up its policing responsibilities seriously early on and not at the fag end of its term, the likes of Nirav and his uncle Mehul Choksi wouldn’t have easily fled the country in the first place. Now with liquor baron Vijay Mallya’s extradition closer to reality, the BJP wants to play up Nirav’s arrest as an example of its intent to clean up society when fact of the matter is the businessman’s cover was blown by a UK daily and not by our government. This despite the fact that he was blatantly roaming free, had started a business, procured an insurance number, paid taxes to his area council and even planned plastic surgery to acquire a new identity as a UK resident. So no matter how much the BJP tries to appropriate the credit or the Opposition parties might say “I told you so”, the reality is his repatriation will take some time coming. In the end, his stay at an overcrowded jail during Holi is minuscule dispensation of justice considering the long road ahead to extradition. The economic offences against Nirav are, of course, stronger than they were in Mallya’s case but the documents are humongous. Even assuming that the London courts speed up the process, though they are in no way going to play by the political imperatives of India, it would take no less than a year to conclude matters.
Despite an extradition treaty with the UK, we have got back only one out of 28 most wanted in the last decade. The extradition process is so intricately complex and painstakingly time-consuming that most offenders abuse it to seek refuge in that country. There are layers and layers of inquiry and cross-checks of the veracity of the claims for extradition there, no matter how serious the offence may appear to us. Besides, an appeal for asylum, which would but naturally imply a threat perception of the fugitive in his home country, is vetted very seriously there. Then there’s the issue of human rights and political witch hunt. Mallya claimed immunity, citing a biased media trial back home that could impair a fair inquiry, a government-controlled, motivated probe and our poor prison conditions, which compared to UK, will always appear short. Article 9 of the Extradition Treaty between India and the UK recognises unjust and oppressive proceedings as a ground to deny requests of the home country. Nirav Modi is expected to appeal on similar lines. But the biggest question that hovers over us is once the agencies bring him back and get him to spill the names of bank officials and politicians who helped him in the entire fraud, will there be an unsparing crackdown on the latter irrespective of whoever is elected in May? The diamond merchant not only fraudulently got LoUs (letters of undertaking) issued and FLCs (foreign letters of credit) enhanced but sold faulty diamonds at high prices, converted crores of black money during demonetisation into white and travelled on a revoked passport. Nirav Modi is a byproduct of a corrupt system, and till the flag bearers of that system are brought to book, justice wouldn’t be fair.
Writer & Courtesy: The Pioneer
The most significant thing about India’s rise — by three ranks — to the 78th position in Transparency International’s corruption perceptions index is the fact that the country has jumped past its bigger Eastern neighbour, China. In fact, the Middle Kingdom has dropped dramatically in the corruption rankings. Predictably, the communist media will dismiss the report but the fact is that under President Xi Jinping, who made fighting corruption a supposed cornerstone of his administration, the unscrupulous boomed thanks to projects like the Belt and Road Initiative. Corruption in China was just a stick used by Xi to eliminate his political rivals. However, India’s slight rise overtaking China is also a sign that under the Narendra Modi dispensation, there has been a palpable sense that large-scale political corruption reduced. This is not to say that every estate of the Indian state, including the fourth estate, the media, is riddled with scams. But as they say, we must take baby steps to start with.
India’s problem is not just of corruption across the executive but that the malaise has taken root in society much like an invasive plant species and it is extremely difficult to remove it. The current state of Indian banks because of their profligate lending habits was in no small part due to questionable understanding between parties. Besides one has to understand that corruption is not always a case of money changing hands, it is also that network of favours. A job for a relative, school admission for a child, the worst forms of a corrupt system rarely involve money. Removing that will take years of work and a mindset change that everything, from chai-pani as the telephone lineman once asked for just to do his job to the payoffs for contracts, is wrong and that means teaching children at a very young age that corruption is bad. But in a country with an economic disparity as wide as that in India, eliminating corruption is almost impossible. That does not mean that we should not do our utmost to try and reduce it. There is little authentic economic data to prove this but rough calculations made by anti-corruption watchdogs show that we lose a percentage point or more of growth every year thanks to graft cases. Because it almost always benefits a few at the cost of the many. The poor municipal roads and potholes courtesy the a contractor ‘mafia’ in many cities are evidence of this. So yes, while we should be pleased with our rise and have a bit of schadenfreude about China’s decline, we should not lose sight of the fact that the road ahead to reducing corruption is a long and a hard one.
Writer and Courtesy: The Pioneer
The BJP Government talks about undertaking corruption and presents transparency by the means of new agendas.
The pervasiveness of money power and corruption in the political and governance process, as the attempts by the BJP to buy MLAs in the aftermath of the Karnataka Assembly election confirmed, is intense. The Government talks big on taking on graft but its actions betray a very different agenda. The Electoral Bonds Scheme is a prime example of its hypocrisy.
The touted motive
The Electoral Bonds Scheme, which was introduced on January 2, 2018 is a perfect example of the duplicitous nature of the Government. In a Press note titled “Why Electoral Bonds are Necessary?” the Finance Minister of India, Arun Jaitley, said “as against a total non-transparency in the present system of cash donations where the donor, the done, the quantum of donations and the nature of expenditure are all undisclosed, some element of transparency would be introduced in as much as all donors declare in their accounts the amount of bonds that they have purchased and all parties declare the quantum of bonds that they have received”. Therefore, the Press note seems to give us the impression that while introducing absolute transparency in the political funding process is difficult, the BJP wishes to introduce some amount of transparency to the funding process, which is why the Scheme has been introduced. In reality, however, if one examines the amendments made to the other laws in India, pursuant to the introduction of the Scheme, a truer and much more somber picture begins to appear.
How the Scheme works
The Scheme permits any person who is a citizen of India or is an entity incorporated/established in India to purchase an electoral bond in favour of certain political party within a period of 10 days during the time frames specified by the government. This electoral bond, which has been purchased, may then be encashed by political parties by depositing the bonds within in the political party’s designated bank account. In this regard, in order to appreciate how this Scheme actually encourages a lack of transparency it is important to examine the manner in which funding by way of electoral bonds is to be disclosed by political parties compared to other sources of funding.
In this regard, an examination of the Representation of People Act, 1951 (RP Act) and the Income Tax Act, 1961 (I-T Act) is illuminating. The RP Act, inter alia, deals with the conduct of political parties including the funding of political parties. Section 29C of the RP Act requires political parties to prepare a report of all contributions received by a political party in excess of Rs 20,000 from a person or a company in a financial year and to submit this report to the Election Commission. After the introduction of the Scheme and amendments introduced under the Finance Act, 2017, the RP Act now creates an exemption to this reporting requirement for contributions made in the form of electoral bonds to political parties. While, the Scheme specifies that the know your customer (KYC) norms of a bank will apply to the buyers of an electoral bond, this does not help introduce any real transparency because the Election Commission will be unable to access this data which is the confidential information of banks.
In effect therefore, the Election Commission will have little to no information on the contributions received by political parties received in the form of electoral bonds. Another law that has been amended to further discourage transparency is the I-T Act. Prior to the amendment under the Finance Act, 2017, in order to avail tax benefits and reliefs under the Act, a political party was required to maintain a record of each contribution that was over Rs 20,000. After the amendment, the contributions made to a political party by way of electoral bonds have been excluded from the ambit of this requirement. Therefore, in order to avail reliefs under the I-T Act, no such record is required to be maintained by political parties if they are funded through electoral bonds.
It is therefore obvious, that while the government made claims that it was introducing this Scheme to bring greater transparency, in reality the government has made the entire system more opaque and attempted to fool the ordinary citizen by glossing over these unpleasant details.
How do we stem the rot?
While it is important to critically analyze the Government for its lack of drive and motivation in tackling corruption and introducing transparency in the political system, it is also important to suggest measures that in my opinion can help stem the rot of corruption in our system.
One such measure is a shift in the approach of our investigative agencies towards investigating and prosecuting corruption. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is the premier investigating agency in India that typically investigates cases of corruption in India. Currently the CBI looks into all cases of corruption across departments and more importantly across the entire spectrum of public officials in our system. In case of the Indian police service, this means that allegations of corruption against a police constable as well as a Director General of Police are investigated by our investigating agencies. While there is no denying that all acts of corruption are condemnable and should be dealt with sternly, our primary goal should be to find the most efficient way to tackle corruption as comprehensively as possible.
In order to achieve this objective, it is my opinion that more focus should be placed on investigating and prosecuting high level Government officials like Joint Secretary & above (Equivalent Rank) as well as MLA’s and MP’s. By ensuring that high-ranking corrupt officials are brought to justice and honest, competent officers occupy higher positions of responsibility it is likely that such competent, honest individuals will implement practices and policies that encourage transparency and reduce corruption in the entire department and therefore help ensure that day to day corruption that ordinary citizens face are minimized as well. By adopting such an approach, the CBI can use its resources in a more focused, efficient manner rather than spreading itself thin chasing every instance of corruption.
As the saying goes, sunlight is the best disinfectant. So another way in which corruption can be reduced is by introducing greater transparency in our system. The Right to Information Act was a big step in this direction. In order to move forward in this direction, we should strive to ensure that all government documents (other than such matters which are sensitive or relating to national security) should be accessible to the public. Such a move will help ensure that the citizens of the country to provide a check against an abuse of power in the Government.
At the end of the day, we must remember that the problem of corruption is a massive problem that cannot be tackled by sweeping statements or empty gestures. It requires a sustained committed approach and should not be reduced to a marketing campaign. However, I am aware that the BJP and the Prime Minister are big advocates of the hashtag culture so I humbly request Prime Minister Modi to undertake this #seriousaboutcorruption challenge.
(The writer is Jharkhand PCC president, former MP and IPS officer. Views expressed are personal)
Writer: Ajoy Kumar