When Governments seek to withdraw criminal cases, whatever the reason, it should worry us
Poil-bound Karnataka’s Congress Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has proposed the withdrawal of criminal cases filed against members of the “minority community” for communal riots/disturbances over the past five years (according to some reports nearly 400 of such cases have already been dropped). As an addendum, cases against pro-Kannada language activists and agitating farmers too are sought to be withdrawn by the Congress regime which is coming to the end of its five-year reign and prepares for what it hopes will be re-election in the face of an aggressive BJP campaign to unseat it.
Though the Siddaramaiah Government’s move is not the first such being attempted – the POP-BJP coalition in Jammu & Kashmir could be said to have started the rot with the PDP in particular pushing for cases against first-time offenders in the stone-pelting campaign against security forces to be dropped and of late the Yogi Adityanath administration in Uttar Pradesh has moved to examine whether it would be the right step in the “public interest” to withdraw cases related to the 2013 communal flare-up in Muzaffarnagar- it is the first to so blatantly pander to the perceived minority vote-bank of the party. The BJP has cried foul and termed the proposed move a pandering to Islamic radicals, accusing the Congress regime, with some justification, for cozying up to Islamist groups such as the PFI and SOPI whom Siddaramaiah has been accused of hobnobbing with in the recent past. Realizing perhaps the widespread aversion its move may cause among the voting public and the possibility of a consolidation of the majority community and even fair- minded sections of the minority community against it, the Karnataka Home Minister was quick to “clarify” that no “major cases” were sought to be withdrawn. “Only minor cases are being looked at,” the Minister said. He also pointed to the record of the earlier BJP regime in the State (2008-13) which had withdrawn cases, albeit against both majority and minority (Catholic) groups in coastal areas, over the violence fol- lowing attacks on churches.
The reason given for its move by a Congress regime desperate to retain power in the only “big State” it rules apart from Punjab is fundamentally flawed. Apparently, minority community leaders made representations to the government that many Muslim youth had been falsely implicated in cases over the past five years which is why the administration is looking at such cases sympathetically. This is laughable. Not the fact that many people in this country are framed in false cases regardless of comm unity, gender or class but that the solution to the problem which occurred to the Congress regime was to put pressure on the police brass to review and withdraw some of these cases. Siddaramaiah had five years to tone up the police machinery so that false cases are not registered and chargesheeted before the courts which it patently failed to do. Interfering with the Rule of Law in this manner is not the solution; in fact, it is akin to spraying ointment on the leg when the pain is in the neck. Indeed, if there is apprehension of a miscarriage of justice then the solution lies with legal remedies a review petition may be filed by the Accused, for example, if s/he feels hard done by. There is a crucial difference between private individuals deciding to withdraw cases against each other in criminal matters, and even there the law court have the final say on whether to allow it, and in cases where the State is a respondent. This is a very slippery slope.