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HindustanTimes Sat,19 Apr 2014

CBI accused of turning slow and shoddy when it comes to corrupt politicians

Satya Prakash, Hindustan Times  New Delhi, October 03, 2013
First Published: 00:20 IST(3/10/2013) | Last Updated: 01:42 IST(3/10/2013)

Twenty-three years after he "fraudulently" nominated undeserving candidates for MBBS seats during his stint as Union health minister, Rasheed Masood, now in the Congress, has been sentenced to four years' imprisonment.

However, nobody appears to be complaining about the long delay. Rather, people seem happy that at least conviction has taken place.

But Masood's case is not the only one. Be it former Bihar chief minister and RJD president Lalu Prasad's conviction in the fodder scam, former Haryana chief minister Om Prakash Chautala's 10-year jail term in the junior basic teachers recruitment case or former BJP president Bangaru Lakshman's four-year sentence for accepting money from Tehelka journalists posing as arms dealers to facilitate government contracts, all these have taken more than a decade.

In fact, the case against former Kerala chief minister K Karunakaran in palmolein oil import (in 1991-92) had to be closed after his death in December 2010.

While their cases remain pending, most of these politicians enjoy power.

Why do corruption cases involving politicians take so long? Are investigating agencies prone to political pressure?

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Barely five months ago, the Supreme Court described India's premier investigating agency - the CBI - as a "caged parrot" which has too many masters and censured the government for interfering in its work, forcing Ashwani Kumar to quit as law minister.

The CBI's flip-flop in the probe into the alleged disproportionate assets of Samajwadi Party chief Mulayam Singh Yadav is another example.

"You (CBI) are acting at the behest of Centre...You are not acting on your own," the Supreme Court had said on February 10, 2009, after government counsel admitted that the CBI's plea to withdraw its application for filing the probe report before the court was based on the government's direction. The probe has since been closed.

In December 2010, the then Chief Justice of India, SH Kapadia, had asked the Supreme Court, high courts and districts courts to expedite all corruption cases. Writing to the chief justice of the high courts, justice Kapadia had asked them "to ensure cases in respect of the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA), 1988 be fast-tracked and taken up for hearing on a priority basis".

Justice RS Sodhi, a former judge of the Delhi high court, says:"The time taken in concluding the probe and filing of the charge-sheet can be attributed to the probe agencies that have to tie many loose ends … But a quick conclusion of the trial is the responsibility of courts."

In December 2012, the department of personnel and training had informed the Supreme Court that 7,023 corruption cases were pending and it required 140 special courts to handle them. But then there were 122 special CBI courts.

And the CBI is heavily burdened, with over 800 vacancies.

Despite allegations of political manipulation, there is tremendous demand for CBI probes. Also, many a time delay is due to the Central Forensic Science Labs, from which the CBI was awaiting reports on 373 cases.

Senior advocate KTS Tulsi says: "There can be no justification for so much delay in concluding trial. The trial must be concluded in real time."

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