Criminalisation of Politics: SC Hammer On States
Three cheers to Supreme Court. State governments can no longer aid criminalisation of politics. “We deem it appropriate to direct that no prosecution against a sitting or former MP/ MLA shall be withdrawn without the leave of the high court,” was a clear directive issued by it on Tuesday last. Further it asked the HCs to examine “withdrawals, whether pending or disposed of since 16 September last year” in light of guidelines it had laid, whereby Chief Justices were asked to constitute Special Benches to monitor progress of criminal cases against sitting and former legislators. Plus, all HCs were directed to provide details of judges’ posting and number of pending and disposed cases before them; that judicial officers presiding over Special Courts or CBI courts involving such prosecution shall not be transferred until further orders so as to ensure speedy disposal of pending cases.
The apex court directives follow a PIL seeking setting up of fast-track courts for cases against legislators. It was in November 2017, that the SC had ordered the same in each State but so far only 12 such courts have come up. Worse, instances of State governments withdrawing or wanting to withdraw cases against legislators, came into sharp focus: 61 cases withdrawn in Karnataka last August; Uttarakhand wanting to withdraw a murder case against a sitting MLA and UP wanting to do so in 4 cases; Maharashtra deciding to withdraw political cases against activists registered before December 31, 2019. Apparently, the prosecution was withdrawing cases under political consideration, to stifle process of law, rather than what is permissible i.e. in public interest. Further, it came to light that investigating agencies such as CBI and ED had ignored directives. Peeved, the SC expressed disapproval over non-filing of status report on cases against MPs/MLAs being probed and warned it may set up a special bench to hear this matter. The big question is whether State governments would pay heed this time. Or will intended ‘Operation Clean Up Politics’ continue to languish. Time will tell.
‘Sacrilege’ In RS
The Council of States, the Rajya Sabha, witnessed a new low in the history of Parliament. A ‘sacrilege’ as described by its Chairman Naidu. Though his views were echoed by the many a minister in Modi government, the Opposition said “voice of 60 per cent population was crushed,” as there was ‘no Parliament session’. The monsoon session ended abruptly on Wednesday, two days earlier than scheduled given Opposition protests over the Pegasus snooping controversy and the three contentious farm laws, which marred proceedings daily from the start. Not just murder of democracy, is the Opposition charge, but Rajya Sabha MPs accused the Presiding officers of being partisan players and worse women Congress MPs on Wednesday last were allegedly “physically bullied by male marshals as they were protesting in the Well of the House”. On the other side, the chair described Opposition MPs climbing atop a table and throwing an official file at the Chair and some squatting on the tables in the front row as ‘sacrilege.’ The House functioned for 17 hours out of roughly 97 hours. In all 19 Bills were passed, but in minutes, without discussion. The Government-Opposition standoff has led the people’s voice being stifled, with their representatives not doing their job. Enough is enough, did one hear.
TN Financial Crunch
Tamil Nadu needs to tighten the purse strings. It’s fiscal deficit, says its Finance Minister is “unsustainable” and “alarming”. A White paper on Monday last, proposes to usher in major structural changes to drag the State ‘out of the financial sinkhole.’ As explained: Revenue generation is said to have come down and “a government without revenue cannot address problems.” Predictably there is politics involved too. The DMK minister blamed the previous AIADMK government for the financial mess: a revenue deficit of Rs 61,320 crore in 2020-21 — which made up over half of the fiscal deficit in that year, Rs 92,305 crore. Since 2017-18, the share of revenue deficit in the fiscal deficit had a substantial increase of up to 50% or more, which means government’s borrowing is not for capital expenditure but for current expenditure. And, quick fixes would not suffice, as the State’s current debt of about Rs. 5.7 lakh crore translates to a debt burden of around Rs 70,000 on each citizen. This is apart from Rs 1.10 lakh debt per person generated from operational losses of the electricity department, transport corporation and interest payment. All eyes will now be on how Chief Minister Stalin gets the State out of the red.
Setback For UP
Holy Cow! The Uttar Pradesh government should be red in the face. The Allahabad High Court has quashed the detention of three individuals picked up in Sitapur district in July last year under the National Security Act in a cow slaughter case. While hearing habeas corpus petitions filed by the families of the three, the court in its order said: “…an act of slaughtering a cow in the secrecy of one’s own house in the wee hours probably because of poverty or lack of employment or hunger, would perhaps only involve a law and order issue.” And, “could not be said to stand on the same footing as a situation where a number of cattle have been slaughtered outside in public view and the public transport of their flesh or an incident where an aggressive attack is made by the slaughterers against the complaining public, which may involve infractions of public order.” It ordered their release forthwith. Clearly, the Additional Government Advocate’s argument that “cutting of beef to sell it offends religious faith and feelings of a section of society…” did not hold water. Much less detention under the draconian law. Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath must see the writing on the wall and stop abusing the NSA.
Chhattisgarh may have a first to its credit. Its police in Dantewada district is creating a township exclusively for surrendered Naxals. Dantewada SP said that it will provide not only accommodation for their safety but offer skill training to lead a better life. The official claimed it to be the first-of-its-kind of initiative in the country and said some of the surrendered Naxals are also involved in the construction of the township. Remember Dantewada is one of the worst naxal-hit districts in Bastar region, which has witnessed many deadly Maoist encounters. Just 400 km from the capital Raipur, the State government had in June last year launched a surrender/rehabilitation drive ‘Lon Varratu’ (return to your home/village) to encourage naxals to quit the gun. The Rs 9 crore township project, funded by Home Affairs Ministry is being developed in 39 acres in front of Police Lines, Dantewada and shall be inaugurated on 26 January 2022. It will have 108 one BHK (bedroom-house-kitchen) apartments, a recreational centre, yoga centres-cum-gym, a primary school, primary health centre, transit hostel, anganwadi, a livelihood college to offer training in 20-odd different trades, including modern farming, motorcycle repair work and processing of minor forest produce. So far 400 naxals have surrendered and the township should not only give hope to them, but set a precedent for other States to follow.