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'Probe Digvijaya's evidence against BJP leaders' kin'

Former chief justice of India JS Verma on Sunday sought a probe into Digvijaya Singh's claim of having evidence of graft against kin of BJP leaders AB Vajpayee and LK Advani, saying it was "very disturbing" and indicated a "conspiracy of silence" at the top.

delhi Updated: Oct 28, 2012 17:11 IST

Former chief justice of India JS Verma on Sunday sought a probe into Digvijaya Singh's claim of having evidence of graft against kin of BJP leaders AB Vajpayee and LK Advani, saying it was "very disturbing" and indicated a "conspiracy of silence" at the top.

He said that political parties were failing in their duty if they do not bring in public domain lapses of one another.

In an interview to Karan Thapar on TV channel CNN IBN, Verma said he felt "completely disgusted" with lack of morality of the country's politicians.

Verma was asked about what he thought of Congress leader Singh's statement that he had information about certain instances which were equivalent to corruption on the part of family members of BJP leaders, but would not reveal them.

"Well, that is a very disturbing statement. Whether true or false. It has serious ramifications for our democratic polity. If true, it reveals a conspiracy at the top against combating corruption about which people are talking all the time and it shows that political morality is at its lowest ebb," Verma said.

"I would say in either case, if it is untrue, it is unfair to the people who are named. If it is true, then it is a very serious matter and it is not a personal matter. It has got something to do with the nation as a whole and I am really very disturbed that, that should be the understanding at the top," he said referring to Singh's statement.

Verma said that law enforcement agencies should take note and try to get information from Singh which he claims to have.

"If true, it indicates something in the nature of a very serious criminal offence and it is the duty of the law enforcement agencies to ensure that the rule of law is maintained," he said.

On questions relating to allegations against Congress chief Sonia Gandhi's son-in-law Robert Vadra, Verma said that not only the person in seat of power but also those in close proximity should also be above suspicion because they could influence decisions.

Verma was asked about the BJP's "reluctance" over asking questions about Vadra's land deals.

"It is failure of duty because personalities don't matter. Because according to me the higher you are in the hierarchy, the more strict standard of behaviour you have to answer to, and therefore the standard of ethics and morality at the highest level should be the highest," Verma said.

He was asked by Thapar about what he made out of Digvijaya Singh's statement that he would not reveal information about corruption of families of BJP leaders and the "hesitation" of BJP to ask questions about Vadra.

"It would indicate or reveal a conspiracy of silence to tolerate corruption at the highest level. And if that is the conspiracy of silence to accept corruption at the highest level, where is the point of talking of combating corruption. Then its mere hypocrisy, it has no meaning," Verma said.

Verma was asked whether he thought it was morally right for BJP president Nitin Gadkari to continue as the chief in the face of allegations against him.

"If there is any prima facie evidence which any reasonable person would accept as evidence then there is a moral duty not to wait for the outcome in a court of law, one must step down," Verma said.

He added that he had maintained the same stance when former chief justices had faced allegations.

Verma was asked whether he thought it was proper for Vadra, who also faced allegations of impropriety, to maintain silence since he was not in politics himself.

"Well, I would say like this - who believes that he is a totally private person. When we say that Caeser's wife should be above suspicion, it means everyone in close proximity," Verma responded. Verma said that the attitude of people in power towards corruption was giving a fillip to the protests on the streets.

"It is very depressing and that is what is giving credence to people who have come to the streets which is undemocratic according to me. National institutions ought to be strengthened, which have become weak... (instead of) taking to the streets. But that is what is promoting that because of the anger against corruption," he said.

Comparing the situation in India with that abroad, Verma said that businessman Rajat Gupta in the US and a former Prime Minister of Italy were convicted for much lesser charges.

"Rajat Gupta must be ruing the day when he decided to do all what he did, elsewhere. If he was here, he would be safe. He would not have even been investigated," he remarked.

Speaking about his assessment about corruption in the judiciary, Verma said that the perception about judges was changing.

"When I joined the bar fifty years back, no one talked lightly even about a district judge in the privacy of their drawing rooms. And now people ask me about the judges even in the apex court which makes me feel as if have been slapped, whenever that question is asked," he said.

Verma said that he was in the favour of setting up an effective mechanism to enforce judicial accountability.

"Some people show their true colours when they have reached where they have aimed for, therefore I have always advocated the need for an effective mechanism to enforce judicial accountability in the case of people who show their true colours later," he said.

Verma also said that when he was the chief justice, he had recommended action against a number of judges.

"I had enquiries conducted against a number of high court judges, written to the Prime Minister sending the papers. The papers may or may not be there, but nothing happened," he said.