The Karnataka high court on Tuesday rejected former Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa’s bail plea citing a Supreme Court ruling that corruption amounted to violation of human rights. But two other former chief ministers convicted of corruption — Lalu Prasad of Bihar and Om Prakash Chautala of Haryana — have been freed on bail.
Jayalalithaa was awarded a four-year jail term by a special court in Bengaluru in a disproportionate assets case while Chautala was sentenced to 10-year imprisonment by a Delhi court in the teachers’ recruitment scam in January 2013. Prasad was handed a five-year jail term in a fodder scam case by a Ranchi court in September last year.
Prasad was granted bail by the Supreme Court in December 2013 on the ground that other similarly placed co-convicts had already been released on bail and the CBI did not oppose his bail plea. Chautala, on the other hand, was released on bail by the Delhi high court in May 2013 on medical grounds.
Interestingly, Chautala is busy campaigning in the ongoing Haryana assembly elections, forcing the CBI to seek cancellation of his bail. Prasad too had campaigned heavily in the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
Given the rising levels of corruption in politics in India, the strong comments made by justice AV Chandrashekhara of the Karnataka high court while refusing bail to Amma are understandable. “Corruption amounts to violation of human rights and leads to economic imbalance,” justice Chandrashekhara quoted the SC as having said.
If political corruption is a malaise which needs to be eradicated from public life, then judiciary should take uniform stand in all such cases. It cannot be argued that Jayalalithaa’s corruption is graver than Prasad’s or Chautala’s — their legal rights as convicts notwithstanding.
The Supreme Court has delivered several landmark verdicts in the recent past to clean up the political system. It’s high time the judiciary adopted a consistent approach in dealing with bail pleas of politicians convicted of corruption.