Given the lackadaisical approach of the Government towards the issue of black money, the Supreme Court had to step in and order the formation of a SIT. The judicial intervention became necessary for corruption and black money now pose a threat to national security
The Supreme Court has struck another blow for the cause of integrity in public life by appointing a Special Investigating Team to monitor and probe the accumulation of illegal money by Indian nationals and entities operating in this country and abroad. The committee, as constituted by the order issued by Justice B Sudershan Reddy and Justice SS Nijjar, is adequately comprehensive in its composition. It includes all agencies that can possibly play a role in probing the accumulation of money abroad, their use and those culpable.
Equally comprehensive is its mandate, which includes "investigation, initiation of proceedings and prosecution" involving civil and criminal proceedings, arising not only from the case relating to that of Hasan Ali and Kasinath Tapuriah but also from any other investigation pending, already commenced or waiting to be commenced in respect of unaccounted for money in foreign banks. The investigation will also cover the "criminality or unlawfulness of activities that may have been the source of such money, the criminal or unlawful means used to take such money out of the country and the use attributed to such money in India and abroad."
The designation of two distinguished former judges of the Supreme Court, Justice BP Jeevan Reddy and Justice MB Shah, as chairman and vice-chairman respectively, is calculated to ensure that the powerful SIT does not go the way of the High Level Committee earlier probing the matter. Taking serious note of its lack of seriousness, the two learned judges observed, with specific reference to the possible use of such money in undermining national security, "The fact remains that with respect to factors that were within the powers of the Union of India, such as investigation of possible criminal nexus, threats to national security, etc, were not even attempted."
Everyone who values India's security and integrity and is apprehensive of the growing nexus among criminals, terrorists and sections of the police, administration and the political establishment, will welcome the Supreme Court's move and observations which were made in connection with a petition filed by the former Union Law Minister and leading advocate, Mr Ram Jethmalani, and others.
The SIT-led investigation it has ordered is especially important since punishment of those, particularly the over-mighty, guilty of flouting the law and indulging in activities prejudicial to national security, would send a powerful message down the line. While lauding the court's action, one also needs to remember that there are limits to what the already-overburdened judiciary can do in redressing the executive's prodigality and criminality and the ubiquitous and all-pervasive corruption in the country.
Mechanisms like the Right to Information Act have doubtless helped. The move to remove the Central Bureau of Investigation from its ambit and the gruesome murder of several activists using it to unearth and halt corruption, testify to its potency. But, as the murders indicate, conditions in which people can extract and use information as a weapon, are increasingly threatened. Here the guilt lies primarily with the State Governments that have undermined or deliberately subverted their administrative and criminal justice machineries to further the illegal financial and other activities of people controlling them.
The argument that mass movements should be launched to cleanse the system ignores several critical questions. Who will organise such movements and set up the massive organisational infrastructure needed for the purpose? Where will the funds and volunteers come from? Attending a single demonstration or even many of them serves a limited purpose. An organisation needs whole-timers to sustain its activities, literature and communications tools to spread its message and mobilise support, and a battery of lawyers to defend activists threatened, assaulted and/or arrested, halt illegal moves of the Government as well as projects, cleared through corruption, threatening the environment and the lives and livelihoods of people.
It is a Herculean task. Corruption has become so all-pervasive that it threatens national security. It facilitates the inflow of funds for terrorists and enables them to obtain passports and other identification documents with the utmost ease. After all, three of the hijackers of Indian Airlines (now Air India) Flight IC 814 to Kandahar, all Pakistani citizens, got Indian passports from Mumbai in a day. Corruption was a major cause of the defeat of the Kuomin tang Army at the hands of the Communists in China. Is anyone listening?