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Friday, Nov 15, 2019

Follow the law, avoid vendetta | HT editorial

The government must crack down on corruption, but be mindful of due process

editorials Updated: Aug 21, 2019 19:35 IST

Hindustan Times
The Delhi High Court has rejected P Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea. The Supreme Court will hear it on Friday
The Delhi High Court has rejected P Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail plea. The Supreme Court will hear it on Friday(PTI)

With the Delhi High Court rejecting former finance minister P Chidambaram’s anticipatory bail on Monday, and the absence of reprieve for him from the Supreme Court till Friday, the case against him has got renewed attention. The charges involve a clearance given by the Foreign Investment Promotion Board, back in 2007, to INX Media, when Mr Chidambaram was the finance minister. The company, the government’s investigative agencies believe, managed to retrospectively get clearance for a much higher investment inflow than the rules permitted by using Mr Chidambaram’s son, Karti Chidambaram, as a conduit. The merits of the case need not detain us here. The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Enforcement Directorate (ED) are pursuing the investigation. There is a legal process underway. And the courts will pronounce their verdict on the charges.

Political corruption is India is the system’s most widely known infirmity. Those in positions of authority have often been known to use discretionary authority or policy loopholes, or be complicit in undermining rules and the law to push decisions in favour of vested interests. In return, they have often benefited financially — with illegally gotten resources used for both personal wealth accumulation and election funding. The Narendra Modi government has said it would crack down on corruption through both a set of policy changes as well as a free hand to investigative agencies to pursue cases against high-profile political leaders. If this ends up serving as a deterrent for future corruption, it can only help clean the system. A crackdown on corruption is laudable, but it must always be within due process. The opposition has alleged that the current government has selectively pursued corruption cases to target political rivals, and that cases against those leaders who have chosen to join the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or cooperated with it have often slowed down. It also claims that the use of CBI, ED and the Income Tax Department — admittedly a legacy from past governments — does not appear to have lessened. This has given rise to accusations of political vendetta. Merit apart, the optics indicate, at least in part, a political subtext to the cases.

India needs to strongly tackle political corruption. No leader, irrespective of his power and position, past or present, is above the law. But the government would do well to ensure that its actions remain above suspicion. This can happen only if the law is followed scrupulously, both in letter and spirit.