Business Standard

The Reddy land mine

But the law must be quick to take its course

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A favourite phrase of Indian politicians who wish to demonstrate that they are not using their political power to influence the judiciary and law enforcement authorities is: “the law will take its own course.” True, the law must take its own course, all the more so in the cases involving the infamous Reddy Brothers of Karnataka. The arrest of the state’s former tourism minister and his brother-in-law B V Srinivas Reddy, managing director of the Obulapuram Mining Company, is only the first step in the “law taking its own course”. Though the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) has shown uncharacteristic courage in recent months in arresting powerful and influential people, it has not shown equal evidence of competence in gathering data and defending its case. Thus, in Hyderabad, where the two Reddys have been taken after their arrest, industrialist has been languishing in custody as an undertrial for over two years, with no court willing to grant him bail and CBI still struggling to put together a defence of its actions that would enable the “law to take its own course”. In Delhi’s Tihar Jail several politicians and corporate executives are in custody as undertrials in cases related to the allocation of 2G telecom licences and the Commonwealth Games scam, with CBI not ready to file charges and the law is taking its own time to take its course!

Given that CBI took its time in making the law take its course in the case of both Suresh Kalmadi along with his associates and the Reddys of Karnataka, one would assume that adequate homework had already been done. However, given the delay in granting bail to the detainees, who are still undertrials, it would seem as if CBI starts its investigation after it has arrested the “suspects”. If this is not a fair view of CBI, then it is incumbent upon the investigation agency to prove its innocence in this regard. Otherwise, the opinion will gain ground that more often than not CBI first arrests suspects and then begins its investigation to gather evidence against them. This is not fair practice.

In the present case involving the Reddy brothers and their brother-in-law, CBI must move quickly, as in other pending cases, to seek prosecution of the accused, so that these arrests do not appear vindictive and politically motivated. Coming as they do so soon after the administrative actions taken against some of the associates of Anna Hazare, it is easy for many to believe that a hidden (perhaps not-so-hidden) party political agenda is being pursued by the ruling dispensation in New Delhi. This is not necessarily true. It is entirely possible that CBI has felt emboldened to act and is doing so, while the central government sits back and watches the action, partly with concern (since some of its own are in jail) and partly with glee, watching a former minister of the Bharatiya Janata Party get picked up. The mining scam involving both Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka was a huge blot in the realm of public policy in recent years. It is just as well that some action has finally been initiated. The law must now take its own course, but speedily.

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