When political biggies face the legal music, it revives one’s faith in the democracy.
It’s still a long way to go in the Adarsh society case. There’s no clarity yet on the degree of culpability of the former chief ministers of Maharashtra in the scandal. But they have been busy passing the buck on each other and it has to stop somewhere. It is for the courts to take the final call on that. However, the fact that Vilasrao Deshmukh, Sushil Kumar Shinde and Ashok Chavan have been questioned hard by a judicial panel certainly gives a lot of satisfaction.
As this piece is being written, there’s news that former chief minister Ashok Chavan has been chargesheeted by the CBI along with 13 others. The other two are not off the hook yet. As the probe agency gathers more evidence in the case they are likely to be chargesheeted too. What rankles is it took 18 months for the CBI to file the chargesheet after registering its first FIR and the judiciary had to prod it on. But it’s better late than never.
The Adarsh story needs no retelling. It may not be of the magnitude of the 2G spectrum scam and it certainly is not the first such case in Mumbai or any other big city in the country but it brought into glaring light the shady activities people in power, their conniving ways and sheer disregard for rules. A gaggle of politicians, bureaucrats, ex-armymen and otherwise influential people allowed the housing society to come up on a piece of defence land and used the pretext of Kargil war victims to promote their own interest in a brazen display of a combination of political and bureaucratic mite.
It is interesting that the former chief ministers who allegedly played a key role in the episode would deflect the blame towards their party colleagues and others. Deshmukh—he was the chief minister when the controversial piece of land was allotted to the society and a public road was reduced for the society and building rights from an adjoining bus depot was transferred to it—told the judicial panel that the go ahead for the proposal came from the revenue department. It was being headed by Ashok Chavan then.
Chavan countered it claiming that matters related to government allotment of land in Mumbai city, its suburbs and Pune are decided by the chief minister. His target was clear: Vilasrao Deshmukh. Earlier, Sushil Kumar Shinde had passed the buck on bureaucrats. The sense of desperation in all three leaders is amusing. Rarely you have politicians of such stature looking so miserable. It would be disappointing if all the politicians, there are others besides the former chief ministers, escaped unpunished.
But the Adarsh case is just the tip of the iceberg. The power nexus involving politicians, bureaucrats and influential people have been running riot across the country for decades. The combo is just too powerful. It controls all the resources—financial, administrative and muscle power—to get what it wants and there’s hardly anyone to stop it.
The intervention of courts, however, is changing the game. We have seen how it delivered a damaging blow to the nexus in the 2G spectrum allocation case involving former telecom minister A Raja. But the legal process as of now is tardy. It grinds well in the end but it grinds too slow. A solution could be more fast-track courts for quick disposal of cases against powerful people. It is still unclear why the civil society groups involved in the corruption crusade have refrained from making this demand. This is much more practical than having a Lokpal or Lokayukta with unmanageable responsibilities.
Such courts would also help reducing criminal members in representative institutions such as Parliament and assemblies. It would also help politicians get clear of allegations of criminality. Right now, amid the gloom over corruption, the courts have provided a ray of hope. But the present role of the judiciary should be viewed as the beginning of a long process. The real move forward would be setting up courts for quick disposal of cases.
It would help stop more Adarsh society cases from taking place.