Crime and punishment is often talked
about but punishment in corruption cases is seldom being heard. Most of
the time we hear about scam and corruption but punishment is rare
of the rarest. If at all punishment is being meted out its only to
some low ranking office staff.
The fight against corruption got a
shot in the arm when the former BJP president Bangaru Laxman was
convicted under anti-corruption law for accepting bribe and was
sent to Tihar jail.
It’s for the first time that a
politician was convicted in a corruption case. The court awarded Laxman four years jail term and imposed a fine of Rs one lakh.
The conviction of former BJP
President revives memories of NDA's rule under the premiership of
Atal Behari Vajpayee, This scandal claimed then defence minister
George Fernandez besides Laxman.
Laxman caught the attention of the
nation, as the then BJP president, when he was shown on the TV
channels putting bundles of cash away in his drawer.
It took 11 long years for the law
enforcing authorities to finally nail him down and also convict
him under the Prevention of Corruption Act.
The sting operation conducted by
then Theleka dotcom was amazing. It sent a decoy representing a
fictitious arms firm to make a deal with Laxman.
As part of the deal, the BJP President would recommend to the
Defence Ministry to give this firm a contract for supplying
"thermal binoculars" to the Army.
The decoy gave Laxman, a bribe of Rs
1 lakh in bundles of currency notes that he accepted and kept in his drawer. This act was recorded on camera and subsequently
flashed on the TV channels.
The unpleasant visuals unleashed a
political storm and took away the sheen from the Vajpayee
government that claimed to represent a party with a ‘difference’.
The Special CBI judge held that the
72-year-old Laxman was guilty under the under the Prevention of
Corruption Act and instead of giving him a maximum of five years
in jail limited to four for accepting bribe.
Laxman, had moved the High Court,
after spending ten days in Tihar jail seeking quashing of the
trial court's conviction on medical grounds. But the Delhi High
Court refused to suspend the sentence.
With this conviction Laxman earned
the dubious distinction of being the first politician to be
arrested under the graft charges and sent to jail.
There are two facets of it, one that
the convict belonged to the BJP, the party that claimed to be
moral and cultural upholder of Indian nation.
The second, Laxman is a Madiga Dalit
from Andhra Pradesh and to many his conviction is another
Brahminical conspiracy to use and abuse a Dalit.
Nonetheless, the conviction of
Laxman comes as a setback to BJP at a time when it is targeting
the Congress over graft scandals.
Will similar kind of judgment would
come in spectrum cases, that’s what is being anxiously watched.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a
journalist based in Chennai. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org